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Putnam irons out school calendar




WINFIELD, W.Va. — Students in Putnam County will begin the 2014-2015 school year on Aug. 18 and finish June 1 if the board of education votes to adopt a revised calendar proposed Monday night.

An earlier proposal called for starting Aug. 20 and finishing June 4, but after comments from a parent during a public hearing on the calendar, the central office staff revised the calendar to try to get more instructional days in before spring testing.

Hurricane High parent Randy Short was happy with the revised calendar.

“I’m very pleased,” Short said. “We’ve picked up four more days in the spring semester. With block scheduling that the equivalent of 8 more instructional days, which is almost two additional weeks before the AP exams.”

Short’s daughter is a sophomore and takes Advanced Placement classes. Those courses hinge on testing at the end of the school year, and Short pressed the board to get as many instructional days in before the exams as possible.

The same logic applies to the West Test, which all county students take each spring.

After the first public hearing last month, Assistant Superintendent Cindy Daniels reworked the calendar to get four more days in before winter break.

The start date was backed up from a Wednesday to a Monday, and winter break was shortened by two days. The last day before the break had been set for a Friday, Dec. 19, but now students will attend school into the next week on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 22 to 23.

The calendar includes six possible make-up days at the end of the school year, but the county could add on days through June 30 to get to 180 days if needed.

The process of developing the calendar was different this year as changes in state law have come into effect.

“I think it went smoothly,” Daniels said. “I went to a couple of meetings that the state department sponsored to go over all the changes. We read the bill carefully, we got some guidance documents from the state, and those documents were very helpful.”

A committee of teachers and central office staff developed the calendar in the past, and then teachers voted on the calendar they preferred. The board would then vote to adopt the calendar upon that recommendation.

Now the job falls to the central office alone, and the superintendent makes a recommendation to the board. Two public hearings are also mandated in the new process.

“I think it’s a good process,” Daniels said. “I think it gives community the opportunity to give input of feedback.”

Teachers seem to be supportive of the calendar as well, according to Putnam County’s American Federation of Teachers president, Angie Turkelson.

“Most of what I’ve heard, the teachers are OK with the calendar so far,” Turkelson said.

Turkelson said many teachers are glad to see the make-up days lumped at the end of the year instead of slotted into the calendar on Fridays in the spring as suggested in another proposal.

“After the snow this year what we found was that it was like you were constantly trying to reteach because you were gone so many days,” Turkelson said, “and they’re not predicting snow for next winter. If we don’t have those snow days, we would have been out every Friday in March.”

The proposed calendar that Superintendent Chuck Hatfield recommended to the board did not yet have parent-teacher conferences scheduled or early dismissal faculty senate days. Daniels said those would be on the final version that will be presented for adoption.

The board will break its usual schedule to meet April 15, a Tuesday, as required by statute to lay the levy rates for the upcoming fiscal year. The board typically meets at 7 p.m. the first and third Monday of each month.

Hatfield also advised the board that he will ask them to meet a third time this month on April 28 to continue hiring for next school year.

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