State should stand firm on 180-day school rule

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia has long had a law on the books that its public schools should provide 180 days of instruction each school year. But, as it often turned out, that seemed to be more of a suggestion than a mandate. Restrictions on the length of the school year combined with inclement weather during the winter often made providing 180 days of instruction impossible.

In fact, during the 2009-2010 school year, not one of the state’s 55 county systems met the 180-day requirement. In 2010, finally, the legislature decided to do something about the situation. At the urging of then-Gov. Joe Manchin, the legislature eased restrictions on school calendars, eliminating the rule that the school year could not begin before Aug. 26 nor go beyond June 8. That helped some, but each county’s school calendar still had to fit in the 200-day window mandated by teacher contracts.

More work was needed. Again, the state’s rules were loosened, so that county school systems could expand their school calendars to 48 weeks long if necessary to make up for lost school days because of snow, extreme cold or other reasons. That increased flexibility began with the 2013-2014 school year and continues into the current year.

Along with that increased latitude came the renewed mandate that 180 days of instruction must be met – and that the requirement means 180 separate days.

However, state school officials acted last week to leave a window open for counties to fall short of that mandate…

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