CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In some ways, Kanawha County students are better off than those in other counties forced to close schools due to last week's chemical spill, county officials say.
This was the first year the calendar ended the semester and wrapped up finals before students left for Christmas break, allowing students a fresh start and less catch-up, school board members said at a meeting Thursday.
Although opponents spoke out against this year's early Aug. 9 start date, supporters said it would be better for students -- and for families -- if they didn't have to study for finals while they were on break.
Now, after a coal-cleaning chemical leaked into the Elk River last week and forced schools in nine counties to close -- putting Kanawha County students out for six days, including today<co Friday> -- school board members are thankful they made the controversial decision for the early start date.
"What really worked out well was that we're starting a new semester. Other superintendents are all worried. They still haven't had their finals yet. We're starting a new semester so we can start with new material," Duerring said. "Quite frankly, it worked out really well this year because of this [water situation.]"
But the calendar controversy isn't over.
The school board is now essentially choosing between an early start date and an earlier start date: Aug. 11 or Aug. 19. Historically, schools in the area have opened in late August, with the exception of this school year.
The board faced criticisms with its early start date this year, with parents concerned about faulty air-conditioning systems in schools in even hotter early August temperatures.
But if the board votes for Aug. 19, it means school employees will miss out on a paycheck.
The issue is with requirements of the Wage Payment and Collection Act, officials said. School employees wouldn't be paid less, but would have to go a pay period without receiving a check.
"So we're in the position of starting on Aug. 11 or hurting the people," school board President Pete Thaw said. "I think that's too early but I sure don't want to hurt our employees. So it's damned if you do, damned if you don't."