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Questions remain on school calendar

School calendar
Feb. 26, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Employees in the Cabell County school system still have questions about the proposed change to a balanced calendar.

About three dozen employees attended a fifth and final informational meeting Tuesday at Beverly Hills Middle School. Many said they are not sold on whether the new calendar would have enough of a benefit to make it worth such a major transition.

The proposal, which would take effect for the 2014-2015 school year if approved by school board members, would include four, 45-day quarters and a shorter summer break. There would be three multi-week breaks in the fall, winter and spring that would include down time for teachers and students and also intersessions during each. The intersessions would take place both in the schools and in community centers, such as the Huntington Museum of Art, and provide remediation and enrichment opportunities.

De Perry, the assistant principal at Beverly Hills, said that among her concerns are the amount of reviewing teachers will have to do at the start of each quarter. And, like many other employees and community members who have attended the meetings, she said there are too many unanswered questions for her to support it.

"I want to know for sure it's the best route for Cabell County, and I'm not sold on it," Perry said.

Ryan McKenzie, the principal at Enslow Middle School who has served as a facilitator for the small group discussions at the meetings, said a majority of his staff supports the transition. However, he said the meetings have been beneficial because people have asked good questions.

"Whether they do it or not, there have been a lot of good ideas," McKenzie said.

Among the questions raised Tuesday were whether high school students would still be able to take advantage of dual credit, which allows students to take a course at Marshall University and earn both college and high school credit. Another had questions about the Governor's schools for arts and math and science, which take place in the summer. There was a concern Cabell County students could be selected but unable to attend.

Some also expressed concern about band and the impact of the long breaks on performances and regional band festivals.

Others simply said they want more tangible evidence from a district that has or is utilizing a balanced calendar.

"I need more evidence from schools doing this," said Teresa Ray, a kindergarten aide at Geneva Kent Elementary. "I want to hear the pros and cons from those who have already done this."

Katrina Zornes, who teaches first grade at Hite-Saunders, said she is undecided. But her concern is with the practical application of such a calendar. She raised the question of the reliability of air conditioning units in the county's older schools and how quickly faulty units could be repaired if faced with a hot day in late July.

But Zornes also said she understands the possible benefits and believes it could prevent the so-called summer learning loss.

"With me, I'm for some things and there are things I'm not sure about," she said.

Debbie Smith, the principal at Culloden Elementary, has participated as a facilitator after hearing a statewide presentation about 12 months ago in Bridgeport. In taking part in all five meetings, she said many of the same concerns are cropping up and are legitimate.

"A lot of questions are focusing on intersessions and transportation and the unknown," Smith said. "I kind of want to know ... but personally, I'd like to try it."

The next step is to present a summary of the employee and community meetings to board members at the next meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, at 2850 5th Ave., Huntington.

Members of the public also are invited to voice their thoughts, positive or negative, during the delegation portion of the agenda.

More details of the proposed calendar are at www.cabellcountyschools.com.

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