Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 7, 2014

Earliest-ever start date: New school calendar approved for Mercer

PRINCETON — A new calendar approved by the Mercer County Board of Education will bring students back especially early from summer vacation.

The board of education has approved a 2014-2015 school calendar that will begin for 200-day employees on Aug. 4. Students will return on Aug. 7, according to Kellan Sarles, public information specialist for the board of education. Confirmation from the West Virginia Department of Education is expected this week.

In previous school calendars, students usually returned to class from summer break on Aug. 20, Sarles recalled. Last year, school started on Aug. 15.

This earliest-ever start date for students was the school board’s response to changes in the West Virginia statue requiring school districts to not only plan for 180 separate day of instruction, but to deliver them, too, said Superintendent Deborah Akers.

Last winter’s inclement weather made the school system use all eight of the days built into the school calendar to make up for time lost to snow days.

“Because Mercer County traditionally misses 12 or more snow days and because the majority of employees polled preferred to embed the make-up days within the calendar rather than extending the year, this year’s calendar covers a 44-week period,” Akers stated.

“A clear majority of teachers surveyed also favored completing first semester before Christmas holiday,” Akers said.  “To do that, we have to start school no later than the 4th of August.”

The board of education hosted three public forums to provide information to parents and public and to solicit input. While some parents objected to the early August start, others said that families were usually in town by the first of August anyway because of sports practices, Sarles said.

The week of August 4-5 will be Continuing Education days for teachers. A preparation day will follow on Aug. 6.  Students will report on Aug. 7. The 2014-2015 calendar includes a three-day break plus the weekend at Thanksgiving, a longer holiday at Christmas, and a week-long spring break from April 6-10, Sarles said.  It also includes 15 combined out-of-calendar and OSE days that can be converted to compensate for closures due to snow or other emergencies.

“We can’t predict our weather for next year, but we try to anticipate our needs so we can deliver 180 days of quality instruction at the most optimal times,” Akers said.

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