Alternate school calendar proposed
HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Board of Education will consider a “compromise calendar” as possible middle ground between the two dominant options of starting school in early August or after Labor Day for the 2018-19 school year.
Under the compromise plan, the school year for students would run from Aug. 20 until May 30 and include two non-traditional instruction days (NTIDs), during which students are given assignments to complete outside of school. The two NTIDs would be Nov. 19, which is the Monday during Thanksgiving break, and March 25, the Monday of spring break.
“This is something we were going to explore anyway,” said Lenora Richardson, Cabell County Schools’ director of curriculum and assessment. “So in seeking a middle-of-the-road compromise, this was one of the ways that could be addressed.”
The board may now decide between the compromise calendar and Calendar B, which begins school on Aug. 9, during its regular meeting Tuesday night at the district’s central office in Huntington.
Counties are required to submit their proposed calendars to the state Department of Education by May 1.
The board postponed a vote to decide between Calendars B and D during its last meeting April 3, deferring any action until a compromise could be struck between those who favored an early first day of school and those who wanted a later start.
The Calendar D option, which would have begun school Sept. 4, will no longer be proposed by Superintendent of Schools Ryan Saxe. Although it was favored by the public in a survey released with the original four calendar options in March, Saxe said Calendar D did not benefit students.
Its later start date overlapped the first semester past Christmas, meaning students would come back from break and immediately prepare for final exams. In the spring, it also meant a significant loss of instructional time right before state assessments and SAT testing. Starting in early September also would have distorted the county’s payroll system, creating a gap between paychecks in August for school employees.
By comparison, the compromise calendar, with its Thanksgiving NTID, allows for the first semester to be completed prior to Christmas break, Saxe said, along with a full week of teacher preparation prior to the school year. The spring break NTID, he continued, is designed to retain instruction over the break when students will be confronted with state and SAT testing the following weeks.
Major dates for the compromise calendar and Calendar B are:
• First day for students: Aug. 20
• Thanksgiving break: Nov. 20-25 (four days, one NTID)
• Christmas break: Dec. 21 to Jan. 6 (16 days)
• Spring break: March 26-31 (same as Marshall University, one NTID)
• Last day for students: May 30
• First day for students: Aug. 9
• Thanksgiving break: Nov. 19-25 (full week)
• Christmas break: Dec. 21 to Jan. 6 (16 days)
• Spring break: March 25-31 (same as Marshall)
• Last day for students: May 23
Full calendars are posted online at the Cabell County Schools website under the “Calendar” tab.
Non-traditional instructional days
Should the compromise calendar be approved, it would be the first time Cabell County Schools has used the relatively new concept of non-traditional instructional days, which were approved for use by the state Department of Education a few years ago. Up to five NTIDs may be used each school year at the county’s discretion and state board’s approval.
• TIDs count as full instructional days toward the required 180-day school year, but students do not report to school. Instead, students are given assignments in an alternate setting outside the school, such as their homes, and given a five-to 10-day window to complete the work.
All school employees report to work on NTIDs, and teachers must remain available to instruct and assist students remotely either by phone, email or video call on that day. In the case of the two proposed NTIDs during the Thanksgiving and spring breaks, teachers would not be available on other days of the breaks to assist students.
Students’ assignments will likely be a mix of what’s known as “blended learning” — using both technology when available and traditional paper-and-pencil work, based on what students have access to, Richardson said. Cabell County has explored the idea of creating districtwide take-home packets based on grade in elementary and middle schools and based on subject in high schools.
Greenbrier County, which was one of the first districts to use NTIDs, issued similar take-home packets to their students.
How NTIDs would be managed would be fluid to individual situations, she added. Students without access to technology or at-home support will not be penalized and may be given extra time to complete assignments.
The Cabell County Board of Education will meet to discuss and possibly vote on the two calendars at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, at the board office, 2850 5th Ave. in Huntington. A period for the public to address the board will be provided at the meeting.
Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.