CHARLESTON — It’s going to be stick-your-nose-to-the-grindstone from now until summer for students across West Virginia as districts cram more instruction into the remaining school year to make up for near-record numbers of snow days in some counties.
In an attempt to meet the 180 days of instruction required by law, many schools are canceling field trips, eliminating theater productions and other in-school activities, turning professional development days into instructional days and delaying the last day of school.
“We’re trying to find every minute we can during the course of the school day to add instruction and it will still leave us short,” said Pocahontas County Superintendent Patrick Law. “We’ve never missed this many days before, but then this is a winter of historical proportions.”
Pocahontas is among West Virginia’s more mountainous counties that are dealing with record amounts of snow this winter, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston. Seasonal totals from Beckley in the south on up north toward the Eastern Panhandle range from a low of 103 inches in Elkins to more than 261 inches in Terra Alta, where the seasonal average is 160 inches.
In Pocahontas County, where more than 159 inches of snow has fallen, students have missed 23 days of class so far this year.
Students in Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Preston, Summers and Tucker counties also missed 20 days or more of school, according to unofficial data collected by the state Department of Education. Forty districts have missed between 10 and 19 days, while eight, including Cabell and Kanawha counties, have missed less than 10.
According to the department, there has only been two days since Jan. 1 when all schools in the state’s 55 counties opened without delays.
Earlier this month, Gov. Joe Manchin signed legislation that gives counties more flexibility in arranging their calendars. The new law, which takes effect July 1, requires schools to plan for snow days and other emergencies and frees them from the current law that limits schools to starting no sooner than Aug. 26 and ending by June 8.