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Board of Education votes to change school calendar

By Staff | Aug 30, 2019

CHARLES TOWN — After extensive discussion at Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting, that body voted to amend the approved school calendar, changing the dates of spring break for Jefferson County students. The original calendar, adopted several months ago and distributed to staff and posted on the school system website, was changed to align the spring break vacation with neighboring Berkeley and Morgan counties.

The official calendar shows that Jefferson’s spring break falls April 10-17, 2020. The approved change Monday evening makes those dates April 3-13, 2020.

Deputy Superintendent for Instruction Shawn Dilly told board members Monday evening concern was raised regarding teachers in the county who reside in Berkeley County who would be faced with finding child if the breaks did not coincide.

In a previous “gentleman’s agreement,” the three counties had agreed to schedule their spring breaks at the same time; however, Berkeley and Morgan then changed their dates, said Superintendent Bondy Gibson. She explained that the counties both have new superintendents who may not have been aware of the agreement.

“There are 400 staff who live in Berkeley and Morgan counties and they would face a hardship in finding childcare,” Dilly said. “It would place an overwhelming demand for subs for us.”

Prior to the board’s discussion, Jefferson High teacher Margaret Tice asked the group not to change the calendar. Tice, who organizes many trips for students and adults alike, said she and several others have purchased non-refundable airline tickets using the approved calendar.

“I may be one of a few speaking against it,” Tice said, mentioning not all trip members have leave time to take if the calendar is changed. “But it appears as if we can’t count on an official calendar.”

Board member Laurie Ogden questioned Gibson on whether any accommodations can be made for staff who have already made travel plans that cannot be changed. Gibson said a legal answer could be sought and that anyone in that position would have to provide proof that their plans were made prior to Aug. 26.

Voicing opposition to the change in the calendar was board member Arthena Roper, who said she would much rather err on the side of Jefferson County families.

“We don’t know how many of our families have already made plans,” Roper said. “When we set an official calendar, it needs to be what people can count on.”

Gary Kable indicated the fact that Jefferson would need 400 subs for that week is what he was focusing upon to make his decision.

“We don’t have that,” Kable said.

Despite Roper’s points that also included the fact that teachers knew the calendar dates when they signed contracts, three other board members verbally voted to approve the change.

Laurie Ogden, Kable and Mark Osbourn verbally voted to change the calendar, while Skinner did not audibly vote. When asked for clarification at the end of the meeting, Skinner said “I guess I didn’t vote.”

Staff member Janet Harner indicated in her notes for the minutes that the vote was four-to-one in favor of the motion.