To meet the requirement of conducting at least one tornado drill each year, schools in Virginia are encouraged to register and participate in the statewide tornado drill set for 9:45 a.m. on March 11. During the drill, schools, government agencies, businesses and families can practice their tornado emergency plans. Information about tornadoes is available from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management: [Read more...]
Later AP tests possible due to snow days. This NBC4 report quotes Megan McLaughlin, the Fairfax County School Board member representing Braddock District, on the problems in preparing for AP exams when ten days have been missed from the school year and there have been eight delayed openings: “[It] absolutely raises the anxiety level for, I think, our students and our teachers on how do we make up that lost ground and time because of that hard and fast May testing date.”
The College Board sent News4 the following email:
“The College Board is in the process of assessing the impact of significant school closures due to winter weather conditions on Advanced Placement programs in affected areas. We will share any testing updates with schools before the 2014 exam ordering deadlines.”
Most of the Wednesday early dismissal days for the elementary schools will be changed to full days to make up time lost to snow days. Because Arlington Public Schools has lost additional instructional time on March 3 and 4 due to inclement weather, in addition to the earlier time lost in January and February, the following is the updated make-up schedule. This revised plan, announced in a March 6 press release, replaces the make-up day plan originally announced on February 18, 2014. If there are no additional school closures due to inclement weather or other emergencies this year, this plan allows APS to maintain the Memorial Day Holiday and Spring Break. It also prevents APS from having to add days to the end of the school year.
Monday, March 31 – As was announced in the Feb. 18 Make-up Day Plan, the Teacher Grade Preparation Day on March 31 has been changed and is now designated as a full student attendance day for elementary, middle and high schools and programs. All students (except for students attending Barcroft Elementary School*) will be expected to attend school on March 31.
Elementary Schools with Limited Early Release**
In addition to the previously announced plan to use March 31 as a full attendance day, the early release Wednesdays on June 11 and June 18 will now be full student attendance days. Adding instructional hours with this change will cover the time lost. (Barcroft – June 11 and June 18 will be full student attendance days.)
Middle Schools and High Schools
There is no added change needed for the secondary schools and programs at this time. The added instructional hours by adding March 31 as a full student attendance day will cover the time lost.
Elementary Schools with Early Release***
In addition to March 31 becoming a full student attendance day and the nine (9) early release Wednesdays previously announced to become full instructional days, Elementary Schools with Early Release will have six (6) additional Wednesdays become full student attendance days to make-up for instructional time lost. The following is the complete list of Early Release Wednesdays now designated as full student attendance days:
- Wed, Feb. 12 (Already Used)
- Wed, Feb. 19 (Already Used)
- Wed, Mar. 12 (NEW CHANGE)
- Wed, Mar. 19
- Wed, Mar. 26 (NEW CHANGE)
- Wed, Apr. 2
- Wed, Apr. 9
- Wed, Apr. 23 (NEW CHANGE)
- Wed, April 30
- Wed, May 7
- Wed, May 14
- Wed, May 21
- Wed, May 28 (NEW CHANGE)
- Wed, June 11 (NEW CHANGE)
- Wed. June 18 (NEW CHANGE)
There is no added change needed for the Stratford Program at this time. In addition to March 31 becoming a full student attendance day and the three previously announced Tuesdays (Feb. 18, April 8, April 29) becoming full student attendance days, instructional hours based on the present make-up day plan will cover time lost.
*Barcroft Elementary School: Because Barcroft follows a Modified School Year Calendar, the
school’s previously-approved calendar will not need to change on March 31.
**Elementary Schools with Limited Early Release: These schools include Abingdon, Ashlawn, Barcroft, Barrett, Campbell, Carlin Springs, Claremont, Drew, Glebe, Henry, Hoffman-Boston, Jamestown, Key, McKinley and Randolph.
*** Elementary Schools with Early Release: These schools include Arlington Science Focus, Arlington Traditional, Long Branch, Nottingham, Oakridge, Taylor and Tuckahoe.
Sam Hammermaster (right) watches as First Lady Michelle Obama greets his mother, JoAnne Hammermaster.
Real Food for Kids Executive Director JoAnne Hammermaster was invited to the White House on February 25 to share the work of Real Food for Kids in promoting health and wellness in Fairfax County Public Schools.
Hammermaster’s appearance preceded an announcement from First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak on new proposed policies to limit sugary beverage and junk food marketing in public schools. The new rules will help ensure that foods marketed to students align with the new standards for snacks and lunches put in place through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.
“The idea here is simple,” said Obama, “when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”
This action comes after the White House Summit on Food Marketing to Children last fall where Mrs. Obama called on the country to ensure children’s health was not undermined by marketing of unhealthy food.
“The food marketing and local wellness standards proposed today support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place at home and in schools across the country. The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and the food and beverage industries to implement the new guidelines and make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people,” Secretary Vilsack said.
To help schools with the implementation of the school wellness policies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a new “School Nutrition Environment and Wellness Resources” website, which includes sample wellness policy language for school districts and a dedicated page of resources for food marketing practices on the school campus.
These new resources will complement a second announcement which highlights the nationwide expansion of a successful program that was piloted in 11 states with the goal of ensuring children who are in need of nutritious meals are receiving them. Beginning July 1, 2014, more than 22,000 schools across the country—which serve primarily low-income students—will be eligible to serve healthy free lunches and breakfasts to all students. This will help as many as nine million American children eat healthy meals at school, especially breakfast, which can have profound impacts on educational achievement. Research shows that kids who eat breakfast in the classroom preform over 17 percent better on math tests and have fewer disciplinary problems.
Hammermaster’s son, Sam, also addressed the group on the importance of learning healthy eating habits at a young age and how it has informed the food choices he now makes.
A highlight of Tuesday’s event was the First Lady’s reference to the Marshall High School Statesmen Station “wRap” which has been recently updated for national school audiences. The First Lady quoted lyrics from the rap and later tweeted about it from #FLOTUS. Marshall Principal Jay Pearson and wRap co-author Nikki Pope, from Marshall, were in the audience.
This article has a handy table showing the school systems, snow days allocated, snow days used, and make-up days/plan. It is interesting to see that in Arlington, nine early dismissal days will become full days and more changes are possible.
Yesterday I received a confirmation from the Virginia Department of Education that “School divisions are expected to comply with the Board of Education’s regulations. The regulation that you cite may be found in 8 VAC 20-131-150 of the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (Standards of Accreditation): http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+reg+8VAC20-131-150 “
Here is the text from the previous link:
8VAC20-131-150. Standard school year and school day.
A. The standard school year shall be 180 instructional days. The standard school day for students in grades 1 through 12 shall average at least 5-1/2 instructional hours, excluding breaks for meals and recess, and a minimum of three hours for kindergarten.
B. All students in grades 1 through 12 shall maintain a full day schedule of classes (5-1/2 hours), unless a waiver is granted in accordance with policies defined by the local school board.
Derived from Virginia Register Volume 14, Issue 1, eff. October 29, 1997; amended, Virginia Register Volume 16, Issue 25, eff. September 28, 2000; Volume 22, Issue 24, eff. September 7, 2006.
I received this confirmation from Anne Wescott, Assistant Superintendent for Policy and Communications, Virginia Department of Education.
This should be a wake-up call to the Fairfax County School Board. Most elementary schools do not meet the requirement for the standard school day. The total overall time the elementary school students have in school averages 6 hours and 10 minutes per day. One half hour of this time is devoted to lunch. Therefore 10 minutes per day is available for recess. However, most schools allow students to have more than 10 minutes per day for recess, therefore these students have less than 5 ½ hours in the standard school day. Fairfax can easily correct this deficiency by ending Monday early dismissals.
News about snow days:
Snow days are adding up at Washington area schools this winter. (Washington Post)
I disagree with those who say that the Fairfax County School Board’s request for an increase in the transfer of 5.7 percent from Fairfax County is overly ambitious. The Advertised Budget of $2.5 billion is a net increase of only 2.4 percent, or $59.4 million, from the FY 2014 Approved Budget. The school system needs at least this amount of money to cover enrollment growth, an increase in health insurance rates, an increase in contributions to the Virginia Retirement System, and to provide an adequate schedule for the elementary school students.
Today’s snow day is another reminder that the elementary school schedule in Fairfax is substandard. There have been several news reports about the new 10-minute limit for recess in Prince William County. Reporters have failed to note that Fairfax County has had a nominal limit of 10 minutes per day for recess for the past seven years. This schedule is inadequate and unrealistic. It is true that most students are allowed more than 10 minutes for recess. However, when this happens, the students are not getting the time required for the standard school day in the Standards of Accreditation. The time provided for the elementary school students is not sufficient. Fairfax should fix this problem by ending Monday early dismissals.
Although it is possible to implement full-day Mondays without additional cost, I think it would be preferable to provide additional funding to provide alternative planning time for the teachers. I believe that FCPS should provide a minimum of five hours of planning time per week within the student day for every full-time elementary school teacher. This increase of 2 ½ hours more than is now provided would compensate for eliminating the Monday afternoon planning time. This was the recommendation of the Time and Learning Task Force in 1996.
The funding for this additional staffing in the elementary schools could be provided by reallocating some of the money in the school board’s Advertised Budget. The Priority Schools Initiative could be eliminated for a savings of $4.6 million and the reduction in “needs-based” staffing could be increased by another $12 million or so.
This is money that could be reallocated from the budget with a 5.7 increase in the transfer. If the Board of Supervisors adopts County Executive Ed Long’s proposal for only a two percent increase in the transfer, that would make it very difficult to provide the additional staffing that could facilitate an acceptable elementary school schedule.
Providing an elementary school schedule which complies with the requirements of the Standards of Accreditation and also provides more than 10 minutes per day for recess is one of the fundamental responsibilities of both the Fairfax County School Board and the Board of Supervisors. It is a false economy and a risky strategy to provide a substandard schedule for elementary school students. This schedule needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Fairfax needs to stop Monday early dismissals and provide more recess time.
The final stop of Superintendent Karen Garza’s listening tour of Fairfax County was held at Lake Braddock Secondary School February 24. The Connection reports that half-day Mondays and the length of school days were among the concerns brought up by parents:
Michele Menapace, a former president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs, also attended the meeting and reports that four of the 21 speakers supported full-day Mondays. “One of the speakers in favor of restoring full-day Mondays was a teacher, who said only 1 Monday a month is free for teacher planning time. The other 3 Mondays are consumed by meetings or mandated activities that co-opt planning.”
Michele also reports that five of the speakers supported later start times and two speakers supported “more recess, less homework and/or more free play to encourage socialization, mediation, etc. (not to mention reducing stress.
“The other topics mentioned by more than one speaker: less testing, improved autism instruction & better training for autism teachers, the school budget & CIP data.”
The Fairfax County Public Schools administrators are trying to fly under the radar again by avoiding any mention of recess in their presentation to the Governance Work session of the school board scheduled for Monday, March 3.
One document, entitled Instructional Program, says “The Superintendent shall maintain a program of instruction that offers challenging and relevant opportunities for all students to achieve at levels defined in the Board’s Student Achievement Goals policies.”
The 12th item states that the Superintendent shall “Operate an innovative, self-supporting child nutrition program that meets or exceeds Federal guidelines and that promotes healthy choices and wellness.”
No mention of exercise as a part of wellness. The Instructional Program Operational Expectations Measures adds information on how to measure this: “Annually update curriculum to promote healthy choices and wellness for students through the instructional program.”
Next we have Learning Environment-Treatment of Students. It states, “The Superintendent shall establish and maintain a learning environment that is safe, healthful, non-discriminatory, respectful and conducive to effective learning.”
Included in this is a requirement that the Superintendent shall “Provide school environments that are healthful for students, promoting proper exercise, nutrition, and proper sleep.”
FCPS deserves a failing grade for this metric. It is hard to talk about “promoting proper exercise” while clinging to an absurd restriction limiting recess periods to 10 minutes per day.
In the operational expectations measures for the learning environment, more details are given. Here is the section dealing with healthful environments for students:
4. Provide school environments that are healthful for students, promoting proper exercise, nutrition, and proper sleep.
Increase in the number of students in Physical Education grades 6-12 monitoring and adjusting a nutrition and fitness plan before exiting high school
Increase in the number of sleep logs recorded by students as part of Living Fit in Fairfax Grant. Increase in the hours of sleep reported by middle and high school students.
Ratio of students supported by Social Workers, Psychologists and School Counseling professionals in comparison with national benchmarks.
It is clear from the sketchy measures listed for providing school environments that are healthful for students that the top administrators in FCPS are not at all proud of their preposterous limit of 10 minutes per day for recess. Perhaps FCPS administrators and some school board members are hoping that they don’t have to actually defend a limit of 10 minutes a day for recess. If they are not willing to defend it, why don’t they get rid of it?
Fairfax needs to stop Monday early dismissals and provide more recess time.