Last month, Gov. Joe Manchin said he would like to see year-round schools in every county in West Virginia.

“It’s something that I think has a lot of promise and shows great results,” Manchin said. “If our main goal is to provide children with skill sets for the 21st century workforce, we’ve got to make sure they’ve got that opportunity. If it gives them a better platform to learn and compete, it’s something we should be serious about changing.”

Reaction to the idea from area school superintendents has been mixed.

Summers County Superintendent Vicki Hinerman says she thinks the idea is worth trying.

“I would be willing to promote it in Summers County.”

However, she did point out some disadvantages, suggesting it could take away potential income for school employees who have summer jobs. But it would erase the need for teachers to review old material every fall in order to bring their students up to academic speed and would allow for easier planning of vacations for families.

As to whether year-round school would result in more learning for students, she said, “I have read studies which support both sides. Whether it will be better or not, we won’t know unless we try.”

Greenbrier County Superintendent John Curry is undecided on the issue.

“I have mixed feelings about year-round schools because of the facility issues involved, and I need to further analyze the issues with year-round schools before I can make up my mind,” he said.

Curry said he believes year-round schools would be advantageous academically for students because “seat time” would increase. He also said he believes a year-round school system would provide students with “less slippage of skill sets and greater reinforcement of academic skills.”

Overall, Curry said he would consider year-round school in Greenbrier County, but only after further inquiry into issues surrounding the idea.

In Nicholas County, Superintendent Beverly Kingery said she is open to exploring the idea. When asked whether she believes the research that claims that year-round classes aid disadvantaged children and help improve in their reading skills, Kingery responded, “It would appear to have merit (because) students are out of school three weeks at a time as opposed to roughly 10 in the summer months. As with any student achievement gains, the real answer is the quality of instruction in the classroom whenever school is in session.”

Kingery added year-round classes would “increase opportunities for sustained professional development for educators and perhaps information would be retained easier by students.”

The main disadvantages, in Kingery’s opinion, would be the work schedules of parents and child care.

While Kingery is open-minded about the idea, she will not commit herself to one side or the other without first doing more research and discussion between all parties involved, including the board of education, employees, parents and the community in general.

Monroe County Superintendent Lyn Guy said she already feels like her county is on a year-round school calendar and that summer education groups like Energy Express help students to exercise their reading skills effectively.

Chris Perkins, the superintendent in Fayette County, had no opinion either way. When asked what he believed the benefits of a year-round system might be, he answered, “It could have a direct impact on achievement and operating cost.”

Perkins said in reference to the disadvantages of the year-round school system that transportation issues would need to be rectified and that some school systems would have a tough time teaching students in the summer due to the schools not having air conditioning. In the end, Perkins would be willing to look at the idea further.

Director of secondary education Nelson Spencer fielded the question for Raleigh County and was also on the fence about concept. He says that in certain cases it would be beneficial, but that there needs to be sufficient air conditioning in the schools and more data needs to be made available to the public before he can make a decision.

One possible benefit, he said, would be the steady communication between parents and teachers.

Spencer also said parents, teachers and students alike are used to the nine-month system and understand what is expected of them, so it would be hard to get everyone in agreement with a change.

Wyoming County Superintendent Frank Blackwell did not return repeated messages.

— E-mail: amorici@register-herald.com

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