By Kim Walter
FRONT ROYAL -- Following a survey of parents and school staff, many discussions and two drafts, the Warren County School Board members approved next year's school calendar during their Thursday night meeting.
In approving the 2013-2014 calendar, the board also set up parameters to be used in future school calendars, like the first and last day of school, the number and placement of professional development days, the lengths of breaks and inclement weather days.
By setting some parameters, the process of approving future calendars should be simplified, with calendars hopefully being approved each December for the following school year.
The 2013-2014 school calendar puts the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 28 with five professional development days prior to that. The School Board opted to hold other professional development days in conjunction with federal holidays like Columbus Day and Presidents Day, as well as election day, since many of the county's schools are used as polling locations.
The approved calendar also has four built-in inclement weather days during the third week in April 2014. If the days aren't needed by that time, they will become vacation days for spring break. Students will still have Good Friday off from school.
School Board members have tried throughout the process to adhere to as many suggestions from parents and teachers alike as possible. Over all, they said, the desire was to "start as late as possible and get out as early as possible."
The calendar schedules the last day of school as Friday, June 13, which totals 180 instructional days -- the required amount.
All board members except for Kimberly Athey voted in favor of the calendar. During a work session in January, it was Athey who suggested the built-in weather/spring break idea, which board member Joanne Cherefko called "genius."
The second option for next year's calendar would have had students starting at the same time, but also would have given them a full week for spring break. However, the last day of school would have been June 20, a week later than the approved calendar.
The School Board spent a good deal of time deciding on a calendar, since the hope was to make a calendar structure that could be used year to year.
Board members said they felt doing so would make it easier for parents and teachers to plan vacations and other events if they knew what to expect.
Frederick County and Shenandoah Counties have had their school calendars for next year approved for some time.
The first day of school is dependent on the school system meeting the requirements which would allow school to start before Labor Day. If they don't get that waiver, the school calendar may be subject to change once again.
During its meeting, the School Board also:
• Approved Virginia School Board Association policy updates dealing with discrimination, among other similar topics.
• Approved a donation from the Warren County Sheriff's Office of a 2005 Ford F-150 pick up truck.
• Decided to make the Feb. 21 meeting concerning site evaluation for the new middle school a closed session. The meeting on Feb. 28 mostly will be focused on budget discussion. The School Board is meeting with the Board of Supervisors for a budget work session at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Warren County Government Center's caucus room.