- Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 May 2010 15:05
- Published on Wednesday, 05 May 2010 15:05
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It was a discussion topic on March 22 and last week the Westmoreland School Board sent the division’s alternative calendar consideration to Virginia’s Board of Education.
If the request is approved, the county’s 2010-2011 school year would begin on August 10.
Westmoreland School Superintendent Elaine Fogliani announced last month that the General Assembly failed to act on a measure that would authorize local school boards to establish calendars to determine a division’s instructional time.
When the General Assembly did not respond, the request was forwarded to the State Board of Education. According to Fogliani, as many as 77 Virginia school divisions cur-rently have the alternative instructional calendar in place.
Last week the Westmoreland County School Board approved two instructional calendars to govern the 2010-2011 school year. If the State Board of Education does not authorize Westmoreland to proceed with its alternative instructional schedule, school will begin after Labor Day and end in June.
If the alternative measure is approved, the next session will begin on August 10 and end in May. The first semester and the accompanying set of final examinations would be completed prior to the two-week winter holiday.
Fogliani made it known last Monday that the alternative schedule is preferred and will be used if Westmoreland receives the necessary authorization from state authorities. Fami-lies will be expected to adjust their summer vacation plans to accommodate next year’s uncertain school division calendar.
During the current year Westmoreland schools lost an unusual number of instructional days to winter weather events. A portion of the lost days was “forgiven” by the state, causing county schools to lose valuable instructional time. The division’s 2010 spring vacation was sharply abbreviated in order to recover the rest of the instructional time lost as a result of winter snow events.
Fogliani has consistently maintained that the alternative calendar and its early starting time will benefit the students and put the division in a more competitive position. Dual enrollment students would benefit from an earlier starting date because the schedule would mirror the calendar used by participating higher education institutions.
The sets of standardized tests must be administered on uniformly established dates in every school division. The alternative calendar would better accommodate those testing schedules.
In order to be competitive, students need equal access to instructional time before they take the tests, Fogliani has explained. She characterized the proposed change as a measure that will increase the rigor of the division’s academic program.
County School Board Chair Daniel Wallace championed implementation of the alternative instructional calendar, commenting that the change would eliminate holiday regression and deliver greater instructional continuity.
Fogliani advised that the division “has a 50-50 change of getting approval” from the State Board of Education. The alternative calendar has been previously approved for use in divisions where winter weather events routinely result in excessive loss of instructional time.
The county division’s dual enrollment program will additionally be taken into account when the State Board of Education considers the request from Westmoreland County. The program allows county high school students to earn college credits prior to graduation. Dual enrollment can begin as soon as the division’s advanced placement students’ freshman year.