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Balanced school calendar meetings set

Cabell Schools
Jan. 15, 2013 @ 11:03 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Cabell County Schools will launch an informational and opinion-gathering campaign later this month regarding possible implementation of a balanced calendar with the aim of improving student achievement.

At a news conference Tuesday, officials described how a balanced or year-round school calendar might work and announced that five public meetings have been scheduled at the county's middle schools to talk to school employees and the community at large.

The first meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 29, at Huntington Middle School. School personnel can come from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and the public can come at 6 p.m. The other meetings are scheduled in February.

"The purpose is to gather information and inform the public about what the balanced calendar truly is," Superintendent William Smith said. "We want the public to understand what we're really saying."

If approved by school board members, the balanced calendar would be implemented for the 2014-2015 school year. It would still consist of 180 instructional days for students and 200-day contracts for teachers and most service personnel. But those days would be evenly distributed throughout a one-year period to create four nine-week quarters separated by shorter, multi-week breaks.

An example calendar discussed at a board meeting late last year had the school year starting in late July and ending in June. Between each quarter is at least a one-week intersession to be used for student enrichment, recovery or remediation -- sandwiched between two off weeks -- which would be options for students to attend. And, teachers and service personnel could bid on the jobs, as they would during summer schools.

There also would be about a five-week summer break.

"It's not just about changing the calendar," Gerry Sawrey, the assistant superintendent over School Improvement, said. "National research shows significant learning loss ... and data shows a balanced calendar can lessen the summer learning loss.

"This is not a discussion about tradition or convenience for adults," Sawrey added. "It's about what is best for students and achievement."

Sawrey said a group of employees attended a state Department of Education meeting about a year ago to hear about the pros and cons of a balanced calendar. Then, presentations were made throughout 2012 to make sure teachers and staff understood the concept and why Cabell County wanted to move in that direction.

Following the community meetings, an advisory group will sift through all the comments and questions to provide a summary for Smith, who will then bring a recommendation to board members by May. If board members vote to proceed, then the calendar committee will put three drafts together that school employees will vote on.

Officials also plan to discuss the proposed calendar with child care providers, church groups, higher education representatives, high school students, sports teams and the business community. They will speak to individual groups who send a request to Sawrey at gsawrey@access.k12.wv.us.

Sawrey went over a list of issues that are bound to come up, including building maintenance, child care, summer jobs for students and the impact on study abroad and college courses. However, Sawrey said "all are concerns we've looked into and believe there are logical answers."

A website also has been set up that provides pie charts comparing the current and proposed calendars, frequently asked questions and the public meeting schedule.

The balanced calendar initiative

Here is the public meetings schedule for Cabell County Schools plan for a balanced calendar:

Tuesday, Jan. 29: Huntington Middle School, 925 3rd St., Huntington

Monday, Feb. 11: Barboursville Middle School, 1400 Central Ave., Barboursville

Tuesday, Feb. 12: Enslow Middle School, 2613 Collis Ave., Huntington

Monday, Feb. 25: Milton Middle School, 1 Panther Trail, Milton

Tuesday, Feb. 26: Beverly Hills Middle, 2901 Saltwell Road, Huntington

On each date, staff meetings will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m., public meetings 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Community, business and civic groups can contact Gerry Sawrey, assistant superintendent for School Improvement, at 304-528-5203 or gsawrey@access.k12.wv.us.

A link to more information about the balanced calendar can be found at www.cabellcountyschools.com.

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