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Is extending school year an idea whose time has come?

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Everybody but students seems to think that extending the school year is a good idea.

Both teachers and administrators said they see the need for increasing the school year beyond the current 180 days.

"I think it's a positive approach. I really do," said Frank Devono, Bridgeport Middle School principal. "The whole idea is getting more instructional time for the students."

Last week, members of the state Board of Education asked State Superintendent David Stewart to develop a proposal for extending the school year for them to review at their Jan. 11 meeting.

State board members said that because of snow days, faculty senate days and other non-instructional time, students are not getting enough class time.

School calendars have extra days built in to make up for snow days, Harrison County Superintendent Carl Friebel said. But if the county has too many days off, students will lose those days, he said.

"There are only so many we can make up," Friebel said.

But there is a lot for the Legislature to consider if it takes up the extended calendar issue -- primarily funding.

"We're willing to look at the idea, but we'll have to be compensated," said Norma Taylor, librarian at South Harrison High School and president of the county's West Virginia Education Association chapter.

The association's state president, Tom Lange, said last week he welcomes the discussion on the issue, but raising salaries is important.

Friebel agrees.

"If you increase the school year, you increase the number of days of employment," he said. "That means you must increase salaries."

And the added money will not only have to go toward pay increases. Extending the school year into the summer months could mean nearly unbearable heat in some schools, Devono said.

The state might need to make a larger investment in installing air conditioning in some schools, Friebel said.

Summertime schooling could mean scheduling problems for some teachers, too, Taylor said. Many teachers take college classes during the summer, and a longer year could make that difficult, she said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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