Comments to be accepted on Brooke school calendar

WELLSBURG – The public will have a chance to offer comments or make suggestions for Brooke County Schools’ 2014-15 calendar at a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday.

The meeting will be held at the board’s office at 1201 Pleasant Ave. and will be followed by the board’s regular meeting at 6 p.m.

Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson said all public school districts in West Virginia are now required to seek public input before adopting calendars for the next school year and the meeting is one of two that will be held for that purpose.

A second meeting will be announced later. Public comment also may be submitted to: School Calendar Comment, Brooke County Board of Education, 1201 Pleasant Ave., Wellsburg, WV 26070.

Kidder-Wilkerson and other board officials don’t plan to change the calendar radically but are open to new ideas aimed at ensuring students receive the 180 days of instruction required by the state.

She said after receiving the input, two possible calendars will be presented to a committee of school administrators, teachers and service personnel for vote, as has been done in the past.

After that, the second public input meeting will be held, possibly in March, and the board will vote on the final calendar, Kidder-Wilkerson said.

She said the calendar also must be submitted to the state board of education for approval in May.

Board President Jim Piccirillo said, “I’d like to hear some creative ideas. I think the public has a right to give input and I’m open to hearing them. They may have better ideas than we do.”

Kidder-Wilkerson and Piccirillo said community members shouldn’t expect the school district to go to year-round instruction.

“Year-round instruction is something that has been talked about for years but it’s never really caught on in West Virginia or most of the nation,” Piccirillo said.

But he said, as a former educator, he supports students having as much classroom instruction as reasonably possible.

“It’s always been my contention that we’ve got to come up with the calendar that’s best for the students,” Piccirillo said.

Kidder-Wilkerson said she heard from some parents who were concerned the school district might adopt year-round instruction after the school district had a shorter than usual summer break last year.

The 2012-13 school year ended on June 6, later than usual, to make up for weather-related cancellations, and the 2013-14 school year began on Aug. 19 for most students in an effort to meet the 180 days of instruction required by the state.

This year’s calendar included a five-day break around Thanksgiving and a six-day spring break around Easter.

Kidder-Wilkerson noted the board warned earlier that the spring break could be cut to make up for cancellations and the board is expected to do that in the future.

The school district must make up for four cancellations. If there are no others, the school year should end on May 29, as planned, she said.

Regarding the Thanksgiving break, the school board cited the large number of staff and students who take the week off to hunt, a tradition in many areas of West Virginia, and an estimated $14,000 cost to hire substitutes for staff who take those days off.

Piccirillo said he’s received little feedback, positive or negative, about this year’s calendar.

Kidder-Wilkerson said some parents asked about the spring break and other scheduled days off because they were making plans to travel with their children.

She said in addition to the number of days of instruction, the calendar must comply with some conditions set by the state. For example, school service personnel may not work more than 48 weeks and faculty senate meetings of no less than two hours must be held about every 45 days.

In addition to the meetings, in which staff meet to discuss use of state funds allocated to their school and various personnel matters, days also are reserved for staff development.

Students have those days off, though staff members have scheduled tutoring with struggling students on some of those days.

Kidder-Wilkerson said in the future school boards will have more flexibility in converting some of those days to instructional days to make up for cancellations.

She said schools also will be required to make up not only for canceled school days but also for hours lost because of delays or early dismissals.

Kidder-Wilkerson said school calendars affect many segments of the community, not only students and teachers.

“We really want the input from parents, students and community members,” she said.

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