School calendar changes coming

After the start of a year when it has snowed (or dropped ice or freezing rain or sleet) for 30 out of 42 days, it should come as no surprise that school systems throughout our region have used up the allotment of available snow days.

And, while the tendency might be for people of a certain age to speak of how they went to school no matter what the weather, regardless of low temperatures or heavy snows, the reality is different.

People only need to think about winters from about 1976 to 1979, or the cold snaps of the mid-1990s to recognize that this is a path the area goes down about every 20 years for a winter or two.

The question is not whether schools took too many days off, but what to do when the cold and the snow linger for so long.

There is talk of adjusting school calendars. In West Virginia, some districts, such as Brooke County, are actively seeking parental input on just how to adjust the calendar in response to a state move to allow more local flexibility in setting school instructional calendars. In Ohio, there has been no move to let the local districts have such flexibility, but the requirement remains to meet 180 days, at least this school year.

The issue becomes something quite different in the 2014-15 school year, when the school districts will have to meet a minimum number of hours of instruction – 1,001 hours for grades seven through 12; 910 for full-day kindergarten through grade six; and 455 for half-day kindergarten. No longer will Ohio schools keep a count of “calamity days” above which time must be made up. Instead, if the calendar has more than the minimum number of hours of instruction, those extra hours can be used for delays or days off for weather or other reasons.

The argument long has been out there that a year-round calendar, with a longer winter break, could be used, but that fails to take into account a number of issues, including the number of businesses that rely on young summer employees to operate or on traveling families to spend their disposable income. Think amusement parks and other vacation spots.

School calendars do adjust. It was a generation ago that school didn’t start until the day after Labor Day.

We know adjustments will be coming again, but we caution that changing what has worked for years just to meet the year dictated by that once-in-a-decade winter isn’t the best solution.