KINGWOOD — Senate Bill 704, passed in the most-recent legislative session, requires schools to publish a syllabus so parents know exactly what is being taught.
Its implementation was a topic of discussion at Monday’s Preston County Board of Education meeting.
“Part of me feels we have West Virginia content standards that tell us what we’re going to be teaching,” said Superintendent Stephen Wotring. “So I really think this was an unnecessary bill. But regardless, it passed.”
Last week, Michelle Berry, curriculum director, sent an email to the elementary teachers telling them not to panic, Wotring said. She would try to take as much weight off them as she could in making a syllabus following the content standards.
However, one thing the administration can’t help with is the inventorying of classroom libraries.
“Let’s say that, like we’ve adopted a literature series, but if a teacher is going to do a novel study, throughout the year, that novel would be considered a supplemental piece of text that we would be using. And then this is the problem, and the books available in their classroom for students to read.”
Wotring said there are different interpretations of the bill — with some saying it doesn’t need to be done — but the bill is clear. If a parent or guardian wishes to view any of the books, a teacher has 10 business days to set up an appointment to comply with the request.
“So we’re trying to put out a heads up to say, ‘hey, you might want to start getting your classroom libraries inventoried somehow, someway,’ ” Wotring said. “Which is a monumental amount of work, I mean, we have worked so hard … to try to build up classroom libraries in our elementary so that we have literacy-rich environments. Now, it’s just going to create tons of work. And I don’t see any way around that at this point.”
Board member Pam Feathers asked if classrooms are required to have libraries, and Wotring said no.
“So, what I’m hearing is they’re gonna eliminate it,” she said. “So they’re actually eliminating opportunities for our students. I’m just putting that out there.”
Wotring said the advice he was trying to give was for everyone to take a breath and not react in emotion. He acknowledged this is all happening at the end of the year, which is a crazy time, but to not overreact and let them come up with a plan.
Feathers asked if a blanket disclaimer such as books are available on request, and parents could come in and scan them. Wotring said that would work if they are allowed to, but he’s not sure a statement like that will suffice.
Board President Jack Keim said two lawyers at a regional school board meeting were adamant all books in classrooms need to be recorded, and a list needs to be ready for anyone who comes in.
“It’s really a monumental bill. That’s changing the landscape of what we do. We are trying from our end to help as much as we possibly can,” Wotring said.