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A longer school year is needed in West Virginia

The state Board of Education is expected to review a proposal next month that would extend the school year beyond 180 days. Board members don't think students are getting enough class time. As much as the students don't like to hear it, they don't get enough instruction time during the course of the year and, yes, the school year should be made longer.

With faculty senate days, snow days and other non-instructional time, students are really not in class 180 days a year. If they are to be better prepared for college -- and for the marketplace -- they are going to have to spend more time in school.

We know that such a decision can't be made in a vacuum. If classes are going to begin earlier in August or extend longer into the month of June, there are certain issues that will need addressed.

First, teachers will expect to be paid more. "We're willing to look at the idea," said Norma Taylor, president of the Harrison County Education Association, "but we'll have to be compensated."

That is only fair. Anyone putting in more time at work expects to be paid for it. Where will the money come from? That will be one of the more difficult issues for the Legislature to sort out. When lawmakers finally tackle tax reform, and when the state eventually starts to comply with the Recht Decision, there should be more money directed toward education.

And then there is the problem of hot weather. A lot of schools in the state aren't air-conditioned. There would have to be expenditures to make the environment more agreeable if classes are held in summer months.

We understand that adding school days would be more than just marking off more days on the calendar. It would take more money -- a lot more money -- to make it work. But we cannot think of a better investment for this state to make than to ensure students a quality education, an education that will put them on a more equal footing with students in other countries who attend school all year long.

We hope that both the state board and the Legislature seriously consider the idea of a longer school year. It's the right thing to do.

Sorry, kids.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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