The student calendar should include 183 days

At the public hearing on the FY 2016 budget held tonight, I urged the Fairfax County School Board to add three days to the school calendar next year. Here is my testimony:

In recent years the school board included 183 days in the student calendar. This year this was reduced to 180 days. The proposed budget would save $1.3 million by continuing a limit of 180 days in next year’s calendar.[i] I think it would be better to return to the tradition scheduling three days more than the state requirement of 180 days to allow for snow days.

It is true that Fairfax can meet state requirements by providing more than 990 instructional hours. However, I don’t think we should try to just barely meet state requirements after allowing for snow days and lunch periods and recess. If we have been willing to fund 183 days in the past, I think we should continue this tradition and not try to economize by reducing the number of days the calendar.

The average number of snow days recorded over the past 30 years was 3.9 days per year. Last year and in 2003 and 2010 there were 11 snow days. In the past 12 years we have seen an increasing number of days lost from school due to inclement weather. Let’s not artificially subtract additional days from the standard calendar.

[i] Proposed Budget, Fairfax County, Virginia FY 16, p.52. “Contract Length Reductions—Full-Day Mondays ($1.3 Million)” I believe it is misleading to link these contract length reductions to full day Mondays. It is true that the calendar was adjusted at the same time that the Monday early dismissal policy was eliminated, but it was a separate issue. This year salaries were held harmless, but the proposed FY 2016 budget includes cuts.

Superintendent Garza made some comments on this issue. At this hour (9:50 p.m.) the school board is still meeting, so I will wait until tomorrow to fill in some more details.

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