After I criticized Jack Dale for discussing time issues for teachers, but failing to mention the need to change the student schedule, someone signing on to The Washington Post as 1bnthrdntht objected to my proposals for providing full day Mondays students while giving classroom teachers more planning time during the student week. This person said that I seem not to realize that there are only 24 hours in a day, and teachers have a very definite limit, both physical and mental, as to how long they can work. Also, “Few people remember that “early closing” was made by extending the hours of the rest of the week in order that planning time could be assured.”
It is true that when Monday early closing was started 40 years ago the Tuesday through Friday hours were extended, as 1bnthrdntht wrote. However, over the past four decades most other local school districts expanded the hours for each day of the week for the elementary school students. Fairfax County is tied with Prince George’s County for last place in the amount of time elementary school students have in school.
Let’s compare the daily and weekly schedules. Currently some students in Fairfax County are in school for six hours and 35 minutes per day Tuesday through Friday, while others are in school for six hours and 40 minutes. On Mondays, these students are in school either four hours and 30 minutes or four hours and 10 minutes. So the elementary school students in Fairfax County attend school for 30 hours and 50 minutes per week—this is the equivalent of six hours and 10 minutes per day if it were evenly distributed each day. This is the amount of time Prince George’s County students are in school each day. The other school districts in the Washington metropolitan area give students more time in school.
Arlington County dismisses 12 of its elementary schools two hours early on Wednesdays, so those students have a total of 31 hours and five minutes per week in school. The other 10 elementary schools in Arlington have Limited Early Release, where most weeks the students have full days on Wednesdays and a total of 33 hours and five minutes per week in school.
Prince William County, which ended its early dismissal policy in 2004, gives its students 32 ½ hours in school each week, as does Charles County, Washington, D.C., and Stafford County.. Falls Church City, Fauquier County, Loudoun County, and Manassas City have the longest school day in this area: six hours and 45 minutes, for a weekly total of 33 hours and 45 minutes.
In Fairfax County, most teachers have a 7.5-hour work day with a 30-minute lunch break. Other school districts with these contract hours include Arlington County, Charles County, Washington, D.C., Falls Church City, Fauquier County, Prince George’s County, and Stafford County. Other Washington metropolitan area school districts have contract hours ranging from seven hours (Loudoun and Prince William), to 7.25 hours (Alexandria City), to eight hours (Manassas City and Montgomery County). In Anne Arundel County there are 37.5 hours per week in the standard teacher contract. “The ‘normal’ workday is 7 hours with the remaining 2.5 hours per week used for meetings or other activities as directed by the principal in consultation with the Faculty Advisory Council. This is the sort of creative solution to arranging teacher contract hours that might be considered in Fairfax County.
In any case, it is quite unfair to say that Fairfax should focus only on time issues regarding teachers while arguing that it is unthinkable to give students any more time in school. Not only is it thinkable, it has been done successfully elsewhere.