A shorter school year and a longer summer break

Give children more of a summer.  That’s a goal that the Bath County School Board hopes to accomplish by looking at ways to shorten the school year.  At the school board meeting on Tuesday night the board asked school administration to help find ways to accomplish that goal.

The board discussed the option of adding twenty minutes to each school day, ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the afternoon.  That amount of time would equal twelve days per year.

School Board member Amy Gwin led discussion on the topic.  She said parents are interested in this and that adding minutes to the school day is happening all across the state and the country.   She said summer breaks are getting shorter and she feels that children need more time to be children.  Gwin said she knows that adding time in the morning would affect the schedules for buses and for breakfast at school, and that more time in the afternoon would affect sports schedules, but said she hoped something could be worked out.  She said students are only getting eight weeks of summer vacation this year and asked administration to put together some information on the idea so the board could consider it by the end of June.

School Board Student Representative Saul Pasco said with mandatory summer camps that he’s attending for school activities he has only five weeks available to work at a job over the summer break.  He said he would like to have more time for a job and he says other students are in the same situation.

School Board member Dr. Ellen Miller said she would like to see the school calendar move away from having days just added at the end of the school year.  She said she felt that after SOL testing was finished, the extra days at the end of the year didn’t accomplish much education.

School Superintendent Sue Hirsh said administration would get input on the idea from teachers and from parents.  She said that because of the high school class schedule, adding twenty minutes a day may only add a couple of extra minutes per class period. 

Technology and Administrative Services Director Paul Lancaster said the school division is required to plan for 180 days of school and he said that number of days can’t be lessened by making days longer.  He said if the school year is shortened, some days will need to be taken from somewhere else in the calendar. Lancaster said that each year Bath plans for 190 days of school, with the assumption that they will lose at least ten days due to weather.   He said historically Bath usually misses more than ten days each winter.  This year Bath schools missed seventeen days due to bad weather.    

Information will be provided to the school board at it’s close out meeting scheduled for Monday June 23rd .  And the board tentatively set another meeting for Monday June 30th to possibly take action on the school calendar.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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