Further study of full-day Mondays is not needed

“As the Fairfax County school system rushes toward a decision on whether to eliminate Monday early dismissals for elementary schools next year, lack of teacher and community input has some officials calling for a slowdown,” the Fairfax Times reports. “The absence of teacher voices in particular has proved a sticking point in the debate over an issue inextricably tied to teacher planning time.”

Time out.

Trust me on this:

If Steve Greenburg, president of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, voices support for this, that is all the proof needed that not only did teachers have a strong voice, but they drove a good bargain for themselves.

Over the years that I have known him, Steve has sometimes annoyed me with his vehement and intransigent support of the Monday early dismissal policy. It is a very significant (and surprising) development that he is willing to support this specific proposal for full-day Mondays.

Greenburg supporting full-day Mondays is like Nixon going to China.

This plan includes new protections for teacher planning time and new regulations limiting the number and length of faculty meetings. The revised school calendar that is also being proposed would add three additional days that teachers work but students stay home during the  school year.

If parents not employed by the school system had been on the committee, would they have agreed to the additional teacher work days? Who knows. At any rate, I seriously doubt that a more inclusive committee would have come up with even more benefits for the teachers. The current committee pretty much gave away the store already. If the principals were pressured to make even more concessions, perhaps they might be forced to convert their offices into teachers lounges and work out of tents in the school parking lots.

The real bias in the membership of the Elementary School Master Schedule Committee is that it was entirely composed of employees of the school system.

A future committee might be unable to reach any consensus on the major issues and just report on the pros and cons of various options, in much the same way that the Meals Tax Referendum Task Force issued a long report without taking any position on whether the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors should schedule a referendum on a meals tax.

Or, if a future committee did come up with a recommendation, the school board might decide to ignore it anyway, as it has done several times before, most recently in 1996. With its track record of ignoring previous task force reports on full-day Mondays, the school board should certainly not decide to appoint yet another task force.

The final report of the Elementary School Master Schedule Committee should be judged on its merits, not on the composition of the committee that drafted it.

Superintendent Karen Garza has done her job well in presenting the option of a greatly improved schedule to the school board. The school board should judge the recommendations on their merits and not spend time criticizing Garza for the way in which she sought advice from staff.

It is often true that taking extra time for further study is the safe and sensible choice. But not in this case. It would be a risky gamble to cling to an outdated and inadequate schedule that doesn’t provide enough time in the week to ensure compliance with the Standards of Accreditation for the school day.

Currently the elementary schools have only enough time in the week to allow 10 minutes per day for recess. Schools which allow students to have more than 10 minutes per day for recess are not meeting the requirements in the Standards of Accreditation.

Do supporters of the status quo support a limit of 10 minutes per day for recess? Or do they support not meeting the requirements for the standard school day in the Standards of Accreditation?

A 10-minute limit for recess is unreasonable. Ignoring state requirements is illegal. The substandard elementary school schedule in Fairfax should be fixed immediately. Fairfax should end the Monday early dismissal policy.

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