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School board opts for earlier start date

Classes begin on Aug. 22 and finish June 6, 2013 with holiday breaks shortened, professional days eliminated

By Joe Beck — jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL — Pupils will start classes one week early and finish more than two weeks earlier than this year under a calendar for 2012-13 adopted by the Warren County School Board on Tuesday.

The 2012-13 calendar starts on Aug. 22 and ends on June 6, 2013, with holiday breaks shortened and some professional days for teachers eliminated to hit the June 6 target for last day of classes.

The board’s decision comes only a day after Gov. Bob McDonnell called for repeal of a state law requiring public schools to wait until after Labor Day before starting classes.

Warren County Public Schools is one of many divisions throughout the state that have received waivers to begin classes earlier because of a history of inclement weather. The current school year began Aug. 29, with June 21 set as the last day of class.

They approved the calendar 4-1 with Kimberly M. Athey voting no. Athey said she didn’t oppose the calendar in principle, but was worried that the board had not heard enough opinions on the change.

“I wanted some input not just from parents and the community, but staff too,” Athey said.
Board members reviewed results of an informal, unscientific survey conducted among parents, school staff members and members of the community in December. The results showed most respondents favoring an Aug. 20 or Aug. 22 start date, although Athey noted the specific total of responses was hard to determine.

Board member Joanne F. Cherfenko said teachers and pupils should receive first priority from board members in deciding a new calendar. Cherfenko said she was satisfied with the amount of public input the proposed change received.

“In any case they favor an earlier start,” she said of the respondents. ” I also favor an earlier start.”

Cherfenko and other advocates of the new calendar stressed the difficulty of keeping pupils focused on classroom well into June. They argued that the majority of students are mentally better prepared for classroom work in middle August and much less so by late June.

The new calendar requires students to be back in school on Jan. 2, 2013, and shortens spring break by two days.