School board OKs start after Labor Day

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County Public Schools will begin the 2015-16 school year after Labor Day.

At a Thursday public meeting, the School Board approved an instructional calendar that begins school on Sept. 8, instead of a pre-Labor Day start previously recommended by Superintendent Jeremy Raley. After months of contention on the subject from community members, teachers, administrators and students, the calendar was approved four to two, with board member Katheryn Freakley and Vice Chair Karen Whetzel voting against the proposed calendar.

“I think we need to think about every student,” Whetzel said, explaining her initial motion to approve the pre-Labor Day calendar. When her motion was not seconded, Kathryn Holsinger seconded a motion by Chairman Richard Koontz Jr. to approve the post-Labor Day calendar. Voting was halted in favor of more discussion.

Before voting resumed, Freakley voiced concerns that a post-Labor Day start forces schools into a compact schedule with only minimal instruction time for teachers. The approved calendar ends the school year on June. 15.

“I think we need more [instruction] time,” Freakley said.

In January, the board delayed its vote after receiving resistance from the community — in large part those who balked at the idea of a start to the school year that competes with the Shenandoah County Fair.

Traditionally the fair occurs during the week leading up to Labor Day. This year it will run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 5.

Thursday’s meeting followed a public hearing with a presentation of the School Board’s budget for the 2016 fiscal year. The board will vote at its regular meeting on March 19 whether or not to approve the budget.

Highlighting urgent needs like the replacement of school furniture; a summer academy to keep younger students from backsliding over the holiday; and funding for band instruments, marching band uniforms and other music department supplies, the budget proposal totals $27,154,375 that schools would request from the county.

In the 2014-15 school year, the county awarded schools $24,467,495, Raley indicated in his presentation.

The board also voted five to one to table its approval of a memorandum that will allow the Valley Baseball League greater access to baseball fields at Strasburg High School, including keys to school property. Whetzel voted in favor of the memorandum.

In a closed session before the regular meeting, the School Board approved the resignation of Dick Krol, football coach at Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg. Krol has been a coach with the county for 28 years. The approval was part of the board’s personnel report.

The board meets for a work session at 6 p.m. March 4 and will vote on approval of the budget at its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. March 19.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com