CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County students have missed six days because of the recent water contamination crisis. That left school officials one makeup day left before they would be forced to cut into the 180 days of required instructional time for students.
With several inches of snow forecast for Tuesday, local education leaders used that one remaining makeup day, making concerns about students' extended time out of class even more important.
"I'm very nervous. But, we've had no choice. We couldn't put them in school because we didn't have any clean water. People still aren't confident in the water," Kanawha County school board President Pete Thaw said Monday. "Kanawha has a very good record -- probably the best in the state -- with hitting that 180-day mark. It will be very close."
Boone County, where schools have also been closed since the chemical leak, announced Monday afternoon that schools would be closed Tuesday. Kanawha County officials canceled schools early Tuesday, along with many other counties in the state.
The nine school districts impacted by the leak into the Elk River on Jan. 9 are hoping the state chooses to exempt the lost time from the 180-day requirement.
State law gives West Virginia Schools Superintendent Jim Phares the option of decreasing students' required days in case of a federal disaster declaration that is directly related to the reason the schools aren't in session. President Obama declared the Freedom Industries chemical leak a disaster within hours after the do-not-use water advisory was announced.
Phares has not yet made that decision.
"I'm hoping the state [school] board is going to give us some latitude because we certainly deserve it. We didn't cause any of this, nor did the children," Thaw said.
The water crisis comes against a background of education reform, with new laws designed to more strictly mandate the 180 days of instructional time slated to go into effect next year.
"It's not that there will be consequences, there will be additional options," Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordiero said. "When the new law kicks in, it gives county systems more control related to that."
In their recorded message Monday evening, school officials said bottled water would be available for students to drink throughout the week, and that meals would be prepared without water.
Guidance from the state Department of Education and the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department was followed in getting the schools ready, and certified plumbers flushed pipes at each school, according to the message.