Fairfax students should have a holiday on Veterans Day

There is room for debate about how many student holidays should be in the yearly calendar. We should give priority to holidays that are meaningful and part of the history of the United States. Veterans Day should be a holiday for students. This is a national holiday to honor those who have served in the military. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs calls this holiday a “celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

Elizabeth Schultz, a member of the Fairfax County School Board who represents Springfield District, points out that Veterans Day has been the only federal holiday which has consistently remained unrecognized on the Fairfax County Public Schools Standard Calendar. She has proposed an amendment  to the school calendar for 2015-16 that would establish Veterans Day as a student holiday and make several other changes in the calendar. She explained the advantages of these changes in a recent email to American Legion Post 117 veterans:

Key Points – First Quarter End:

a.       The proposed Master Calendar has a 37-day First Quarter and 53-day Second Quarter, ending Friday, October 30, 2015 and Thursday, February 4, 2016 respectively.

b.      The Amendment results in Master Calendar which has a 43-day First Quarter and 47-day Second Quarter, ending Tuesday, November 10, 2015 and Thursday, February 4, 2016 respectively.

c.       The change is accomplished by:

                                                              i.      moving the Quarter End from Friday, October 30, 2015 to Tuesday, November 10, 2015, and

                                                            ii.      moving the Teacher Work Day from Monday, November 2, 2015 to Wednesday, November 11, 2015.

d.      The Amendment balances the First Quarter and Second Quarter in the first semester with the second semester nearly equally with a 47-day Third Quarter and a 43-day Fourth Quarter.

e.       The Amendment provides an additional notable benefit in acknowledging Veterans Day, which has been the only federal holiday consistently unrecognized on the FCPS Master Calendar/

                                                              i.      Fairfax County has a long heritage in the seat of the nation’s capital of a strong military presence; in the immediate vicinity to Fairfax County are the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, Fort Meyers, the Washington Navy Yard, Bureau of Navy Personnel, the Coast Guard, Quantico and countless military contractors.

                                                            ii.      As the daughter of a career Navy Vietnam Veteran and sister-in-law of an Army Desert Storm Veteran, I am keenly aware of the sacrifice of our military families and the need to carry on the tradition of honoring Veterans and military service and uphold those values to successive generations of Americans.

                                                          iii.      Establishing Veterans Day on the FCPS calendar has been deemed difficult since November is bookended with an Election Day every year on the first Tuesday and Thanksgiving on the further Thursday; the notion that something is difficult is not a reason not to recognize and honor the many Veterans who currently live and have lived in our community on active duty or retired and  those who have historically served preserving the liberty and freedom under which we live today.

     II.            Key Points – Year-End:

a.       The proposed Master Calendar has teachers completing contracts on Monday, June 27, 2016 after the Last Day for students on Thursday, June 23, 2016 and a Strategic or School Planning Day on Friday, June 24, 2016.

b.      The amendment has teachers completing contracts three calendar days earlier, on Friday, June 24, 2016.

c.       The change is accomplished by:

                                                              i.      moving the Teacher Work Day from Monday, June 27, 2016 to Friday, June 24, 2016, and

                                                            ii.      designating Friday, August 28, 2015 as a Strategic Planning Day.

   III.            Key Points – Benefits:

a.       The Amendment seeks to balance curriculum pacing, assessments, achievement and workload requirements on students and teachers.

b.      Veterans Day is recognized on the FCPS Master Calendar.

c.       The Year-End solution certainly seeks to respect and honor the work of teachers and administrators with the restoration of a full weekend to their schedules – which may be subject to use at the building level if administrators seek to provide ad hoc relief for Monday, June 27, 2016 as the proposed Master Calendar Year-End.

  IV.            Key Points – Student Year-End:

a.       My desire to end the school year earlier – more reasonably – for students and families is the only aspect I was unable to achieve in crafting this Amendment. The need to meet the state mandates from both the Virginia General Assembly and the State Board of Education made an earlier Year-End insurmountable for the 2015-16 school year.

b.      Please know continued advocacy to relieve selected local School Boards which cannot get a waiver from the Kings Dominion Law – a tourism-driven priority – is needed by individual voters as well as the on-going efforts of the FCPS Board.

I think this amendment is an improvement on the proposed calendar for 2015-16. Since the snow storm last week caused the cancellation of the March 5 school board meeting, the vote on the calendar will take place on March 26.

Speaking of snow days, I believe that it would be better to plan for 183 days rather than 180 days in the school calendar. Even if the calendar is lengthened to 183 days either next year or in the future, I think that room should be found for the observance of Veterans Day as a student holiday.

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