CHARLESTON – Keeping in mind that the total amount of quality instruction students receive is what’s most important, the House Education Committee today has adopted a new version of legislation intended to adjust the school calendar.
“We have developed legislation that offers county school systems the flexibility they need to craft individual school calendars that ensure maximum instruction time, as in total hours of meaningful instruction,” House Education Chair Mary Poling, D-Barbour, said. “It’s an exciting, modern approach.
“I’m proud of the legislation and I applaud members of the Education Committee for all their work on this.”
Delegate Dave Pethtel, who led the subcommittee that researched the issue, noted that in many instances, school systems schedule instructional days that exceed the number of instructional minutes required by the state Board of Education. As a result, the total instructional time often exceeds the total instructional minutes required by the standard 180-day schedule.
SB249 as amended by the House Education Committee sets out what is considered “accrued instructional time” – total minutes – for the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
In the event that a county board determines it is not possible within the school calendar to complete 180 separate days of instruction, the county board would use the next available non-instructional day, including any instructional time that extends beyond the traditional day, and any remaining instructional support and enhancement day. In addition, that county board can better utilize the additional minutes of instruction required in the school day to make up for lost instructional days. The bill would give counties at least seven flexible days to utilize in addition to accrued instructional time.
“The bill achieves the intended purpose, which is to give county boards of education more flexibility in scheduling and optimizing actual seat-time for students,” said Pethtel, D-Wetzel. “This is a holistic approach. It is breaking with the tradition to which many educators are accustomed, but I think it will be well received.”
Delegate Woody Ireland, who sits on the House Education Committee, said he is pleased to see the focus of the legislation shift to actual instruction. He said the calls he’s received from his district regarding this issue have not been complaints about the school calendar, but from constituents who believe the state ought to be focusing more on educational outcomes.
“It’s what we do with the time when students are in the classroom that’s important,” Ireland, R-Ritchie, said.
Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, who is a first-term member serving on the Education Committee, said she was pleased to see all the affected parties come together and provide input. “While we were considering the details of a scheduling system, we kept our eyes on the big picture, which is creating an educational foundation that encourages children to excel,” the Jefferson County Democrat said.
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