Preston County Schools taking comment on proposed 2019-’20 school calendar

KINGWOOD — The current school year has months to go, but Preston County Schools is already at work on the 2019-‘20 school calendar.
That calendar calls for staff to return to school Aug. 12 and students grades first through 12 on Aug. 15. The last day of school for students will be May 21, with Preston High graduation May 22.
“I really think it’s a great calendar instructionally,” Preston Superintendent Steve Wotring told the board of education Monday. “We tried to maximize the instructional time we have, and on those days where there’s issues, we eliminated a lot of those.”
Students could miss 10 snow days — five Brain Freeze days and five others — before days have to be made up. May 22 and May 26 through June 30 could potentially be used as make up days.
One thing that concerns Wotring is a new state mandate that high school seniors must attend school for 175 days. Traditionally, Preston High seniors don’t attend school the last week.
“What I haven’t gotten an answer from the state department is, let’s say it’s a horrible, horrible winter, and we have to add a bunch of days at the end of our calendar, so then we have to move graduation,” Wotring said. “All of the kids will have already ordered all of their announcements, which have a set graduation date on it.”
The proposed calendar was developed by a committee, and another public hearing will be held on it, before the board votes.
The start date is after the state fair, in which some Preston students participate. The first holiday on the calendar will be Labor Day. Next comes the Preston County Buckwheat Festival.
“We had a lot of discussion over Thursday of the Buckwheat Festival,” Wotring said. “Our attendance is really low that day … particularly at the high school, a lot of kids  are involved in things.”
So staff will work that day, but students will be off in 2019. Friday of the festival has always been a day off for students.
In October, Halloween falls on Thursday, so that is proposed to be a two-hour early dismissal day. The following day, Nov. 1, is proposed as a staff development day, so students would not attend. That has the benefit of not bringing students “wired on sugar” back to school Friday, Wotring said.
In November, Veterans Day and the entire week of Thanksgiving are proposed to be off. “I don’t know how many years ago it was we tried to come on Tuesday and Wednesday [of Thanksgiving week] and it just doesn’t work,” Wotring said.
December 20, a Friday, will be the last day of school before Christmas break. Christmas falls on Wednesday this year, “so if you tried to have school on the 23rd, you’d be bringing everybody back just for one day,” Wotring noted.
Staff will return on Jan. 2 and 3. Students will return Jan. 6, under this  plan.
In February 2020, the proposal is to give students Feb. 14 off, while employees will report for staff development.
“We took into consideration here at Preston High,” the superintendent said. “What happens at Preston High on Valentine’s Day, every budding romance shows its colors, and all these guys are trying to buy their girls flowers, and all we do all day at the high school is deliver flowers all over the place.
“We were trying to make the best instructional decisions,” Wotring said.
At Easter, students will get Good Friday and the Monday after Easter off, if the calendar passes muster.
“Every survey we’ve ever sent out  in years past, everybody said Friday and Monday was enough,” the superintendent said. “They didn’t really want  a spring break and then have it taken away from them by the snow.”
Election day is Tuesday, May 12, and attendance the day before is typically low among students and staff, so May 11 is planned as a staff development day.
A second public hearing on the proposed 2019-‘20  calendar will be held at the 5 p.m., Jan. 28 meeting of the board, at the board offices in Kingwood.

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