Snow days force adjusting in Brooke school calendar

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Board of Education is working on making up days when school was canceled due to the weather while continuing to accept comment on next year’s school calendar.

The board agreed to convert Monday from a day for staff development to a regular school day, though there will be a two-hour delay to allow for faculty senate meetings. And beginning Feb. 24, there will be no more one-hour delays on Mondays for the schools’ Professional Learning Communities meetings. The meetings were added in 2011 for staff to discuss ways to improve students’ test scores in core subjects.

The board tabled converting several other staff development days and a spring break scheduled around Easter to regular school days, citing issues involving payment for the school district’s service personnel.

But Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson said earlier it’s likely the break will be eliminated to ensure the school district provides the 180 days of instruction required by the state.

June 3 is expected to be the last day for students, extending the school year beyond the original May 29 end date planned for students.

Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz noted the school calendar presently cannot be extended beyond that date, but that will change next year.

The state Legislature and Department of Education has given school districts more flexibility in planning next year’s school calendar, including the option of year-round school if they choose. Local school officials have said they don’t believe year-round school would be popular with most residents.

But the school district is seeking public input on the 2014-15 school calendar through two public meetings, written correspondence and a survey found at the school board’s website at www.edline.net/pages/brookecountyschools.

The survey asks respondents’ preference regarding the first week of school and Thanksgiving and Easter breaks.

School districts will be required next year to make up not only for cancelations, but also delays. So the survey asks if lost instructional time should be made up in the same manner as cancelations are now, by extending the school day to make up for the delays or extending it at the start of the year to safeguard against instructional time being lost.

Some have suggested scheduling the high school year so the first semester ends before Christmas, allowing students there to take exams before Christmas break, as many college students do.

The move would affect the other schools because the school year would have to begin on Aug. 11 in order to include the minimum of 85 days required for a semester by the state.

State school officials are requiring the school districts to present year-round school as an option. So the survey also asks the respondent’s opinion of a calendar that would involve 11 months of school, with 45-day periods of instruction interrupted by 15-day breaks.

Rob Robinson, facilities supervisor, said of 372 who had responded to the online survey as of Monday night, 75 percent were parents.

“I was extremely impressed by the number of parents who went to our website and completed the survey,” he said.

Resident may submit comments in writing to: School Calendar Comment, Brooke County Board of Education, 1201 Pleasant Ave., Wellsburg, WV 26070.

Board member Chad Haught asked Robinson when the next public meeting will be held. The first meeting was held Jan. 14. Robinson said the next meeting should be in early March, after a committee of school administrators, teachers and service personnel has had input.

The school board will make the final decision on the calendar and must submit it for the state Department of Education’s approval in May.

In other business, the board:

– Agreed to seek bond counsel for a proposed bond issue to raise funds for the construction of new middle and primary schools that would replace the existing ones.

No specific plans have been made, but the board has discussed replacing Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools with one middle school near Brooke High School.

A new middle school is part of the 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan developed by McKinley and Associates, a Wheeling engineering firm, with input from a committee of staff and community members, and approved by the board in 2010.

The board hopes also to secured funds from the state School Building Authority for the new schools.

– Authorized Robinson to seek bids for a 2,160-square-foot modular home to serve as the alternative learning center.

Alternative learning centers at the high school and middle schools provide a more structured environment for students with behavioral issues, according to officials.

Plans call for the centers to be moved to the new building, which will be built at the site of the former ALC at 26th and Commerce streets.

– Accepted the retirement of Ede Ashworth, a long-time Latin and Spanish instructor at the high school, and approved hiring Mark Schwertfeger as assistant baseball coach at the high school and Rae Ann Cipoletti as girls track coach at Follansbee Middle School.