Fairfax County adds 64 positions for full-day Mondays

In addition to questions about recess, I also asked other questions about the change in the elementary school schedules now that Fairfax County has full-day Mondays. Here are the questions, along with the answers from Brandynn Reaves, public information specialist:

Question:  Would it be correct to state that nine additional schools added FLES [Foreign Languages in Elementary Schools] this September, for a total of 55 schools with FLES?

Answer:  There are 55 schools in Fairfax County Public Schools that have the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES) program.  They are listed on the FCPS website at http://www.fcps.edu/is/worldlanguages/fles.shtml.

Question: How many schools added additional instruction by music, art or P.E. specialists?

Answer: Below is a breakdown of added staff position for music, art and physical education:

Subject

FTE [Full-time equivalent] total 2014_15

FTE total 2013_14

PE

478

424.16

Art

265.13

257.57

Music

271.33

272.57


Questions:
 Do you have figures on how many of the additional FTE positions in P.E. and art are added solely due to increased enrollment and how many are added in response to the new full-day Monday schedule? Do you have statistics on the types of additional staff positions that were added in response to the new full-day Monday schedule?

Answer: A total of 63.8 positions were allocated to schools as a result of the implementation of full-day Mondays.  The allocation was primarily made as additional art/music/physical education (pe) teachers, but schools are able to utilize the positions in alternate ways to meet their individual needs (e.g., school-based technology specialist, world language teacher, etc.) assuming they are able to provide sufficient planning time for teachers. 

There were 755.2 art/music/pe teacher positions budgeted in FY 2014 for elementary schools.  The FY 2015 budget includes 741.2 art/music/pe teacher positions (prior to the 63.8 positions allocated as a result of full-day Mondays).  The net reduction of 14.0 positions is the result of budget reductions due to the increase in class size and needs-based staffing reductions offset by growth in these positions due to student enrollment and demographic adjustments.

Question: Do you have statistics on how many schools have 60 minutes per week of P.E., How many have 90 minutes? Are there any schools which now offer more than 90 minutes per week?

Answer: Statistics for how many minutes each school has devoted to physical education and music classes is not centrally maintained.  With the implementation of the full-day Mondays, each elementary school had the flexibility to determine how to best utilize the additional instructional time for students. Elementary school master schedules were reviewed by the regional assistant superintendent’s offices only to ensure the appropriate amount of teacher planning time was provided.

This information, which was provided to me in emails sent October 24 and November 4, was also included in the recent article in the Fairfax VOTER.

Fairfax County does not specify a maximum amount of time for recess

When elementary schedules were being constructed for this school year, a 20-minute minimum time for recess was communicated to principals, according to Brandynn Reaves, FOIA officer/public information specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools. “There are no maximum times for recess being communicated to principals.”

Reaves was responding to questions I emailed about whether there is a maximum amount of time allowed for recess and whether FCPS had given principals and teachers new written directives about recess.

In the email she sent me October 22, Reaves said, “We instituted a new regulation that addresses recess.  Currently, School Board Regulation 3218.3 Section III.A.3.h states:

“h. Ensures physical education teachers provide no fewer than two instructional segments totaling a minimum of 60 minutes of instruction weekly for students in kindergarten through grade six. Two or more instructional segments totaling a minimum of 90 minutes is recommended. The Code of Virginia Section 22.1-253.13:1 requires a plan for physical fitness for all students of at least 150 minutes per week. Plans for 150 minutes of physical fitness must include 60 minutes of physical education and a minimum of 15 minutes of daily recess as required by 8VAC20-131-200. Remaining time needed to meet the Virginia requirements may be provided by additional physical education or recess.

“However, when elementary schedules were being constructed for this school year, a 20 minute minimum was communicated to principals. This was discussed at the School Board meeting June 26, 2014 – Regular Meeting No. 22-  Master Calendar Revision 2014-2015:

The FCPS regulation is not precise when it says that the Code of Virginia requires a plan for physical fitness for all students of at least 150 minutes per week. Chapter 13.2 Standards of quality, includes the following provision

§ 22.1-253.13:1. Standard 1. Instructional programs supporting the Standards of Learning and other educational objectives….

D. Local school boards shall also implement the following:…

15. A program of physical fitness available to all students with a goal of at least 150 minutes per week on average during the regular school year. Such program may include any combination of (i) physical education classes, (ii) extracurricular athletics, or (iii) other programs and physical activities deemed appropriate by the local school board. Each local school board shall incorporate into its local wellness policy a goal for the implementation of such program during the regular school year.”

Even though the state “goal” of 150 minutes of physical fitness is not a strict requirement, I don’t understand why the FCPS regulation only calls for 15 minutes of daily recess. That would amount to 75 minutes per week. For the schools which offer only 60 minutes of P.E., the total amount of physical fitness provided by P.E. and recess would be only 135 minutes.

In answer to my question about whether FCPS specifies a maximum amount of time for recess, Reaves explained,

“There are no maximum times for recess being communicated to principals; again, state requirements only mention ‘a daily recess’.  The Code of Virginia, 8 VAC 20-131-200 states:

“Extracurricular and other school activities, recess.

A. School sponsored extracurricular activities shall be under the direct supervision of the staff and shall contribute to the educational objectives of the school. Extracurricular activities must be organized to avoid interrupting the instructional program. Extracurricular activities shall not be permitted to interfere with the student’s required instructional activities. Extracurricular activities and eligibility requirements shall be established and approved by the superintendent and the school board.

B. Competitive sports of a varsity nature (scheduled league games) shall be prohibited as a part of the elementary school program.

C.  Each elementary school shall provide students with a daily recess during the regular school year as determined appropriate by the school.

I also asked, “If 20 minutes is not a maximum, but schools have discretion on this matter, does FCPS have statistics on the length of recess in the various elementary schools?

Reaves answered, “Data is not collected centrally on the length of recess at each FCPS elementary school. These decisions are left to the individual schools.”

I also asked for a copy of the previous regulation, 3218.2. Section III.A.3.h in the old regulation states:

h. Ensures physical education teachers provide no fewer than two instructional segments totaling a minimum of 60 minutes of instruction weekly for students in kindergarten through grade six. Two or more instructional segments totaling a minimum of 90 minutes is recommended. Section 22.1-253.13:1 of the Code of Virginia recommends that students participate in 150 minutes of physical activity weekly provided by physical education, extra-curricular activities, or other programs and physical activities.”

It’s interesting that the previous regulation referred to the state recommendation regarding 150 minutes of physical activity per week, but didn’t mention whether FCPS might ever attempt to meet this recommendation.

Fairfax VOTER describes schedule and staffing changes in FCPS

The December Fairfax VOTER features an article about the changing schedules in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). This newsletter for the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area includes a description of the switch to full-day Mondays for the elementary schools.

On June 26, the Fairfax County School Board voted to stop dismissing elementary school students 2.5 hours early every Monday. This has increased instructional time for students and allowed for 20 minutes of daily recess. In addition, the change will guarantee dedicated planning time for elementary teachers totaling 300 minutes per week.

As of November 2014, a total of 63.8 positions were allocated to schools as a result of the implementation of full-day Mondays. Brandynn Reaves, a public information specialist with the Department of Communications and Community Outreach, provided me and the other authors of this article with the following information:

The allocation was primarily made as additional art/music/physical education (PE) teachers, but schools are able to utilize the positions in alternate ways to meet their individual needs (e.g., school-based technology specialist, world language teacher, etc.) assuming they are able to provide sufficient planning time for teachers.

There were 755.2 art/music/PE teacher positions budgeted in FY 2014 for elementary schools.  The FY 2015 budget includes 741.2 art/music/PE teacher positions (prior to the 63.8 positions allocated as a result of full-day Mondays).  The net reduction of 14.0 positions is the result of budget reductions due to the increase in class size and needs-based staffing reductions offset by growth in these positions due to student enrollment and demographic adjustments

The Voter article also describes the calendar changes this year and the school board’s decision to provide later start times for high schools and secondary schools next fall.

FCPS describes the full-day Monday plan

Here is the press release from Fairfax County Public Schools about the vote last night:

Fairfax County School Board Approves Full-Day Mondays for Elementary Schools Starting in September 2014

The Fairfax County School Board approved a master calendar change that will provide a uniform length elementary school day and eliminate the shortened Monday schedule beginning in September 2014.  This change will increase instructional time for students and will allow for 20 minutes of daily recess.  In addition, the change will guarantee dedicated planning time for elementary teachers totaling 300 minutes per week.
 
“After surveying both parents and teachers, we saw that parents overwhelmingly supported this change—and as soon as possible,” said Ilryong Moon, School Board Chairman. “In addition, elementary teachers have consistently cited in our working conditions survey that they need guaranteed, self-directed time for planning.”
 
The change also solves the challenge of meeting the annual 990 instructional hour requirement in state law, which Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) does not meet under the current shortened Monday schedule. Instead, FCPS has met the state requirement of a 180-day calendar, which resulted in sometimes having to add days to the end of the school year to make up missed days due to inclement weather. The new uniform elementary schedule will eliminate making up inclement weather days at the end of the school year if fewer than 13 days are missed.
 
A uniform length elementary day also provides an opportunity for an innovative school year calendar that builds in consistent holidays, such as a full two weeks for winter break, and strategic planning days throughout the year.  In addition, one master calendar will be followed for all elementary, middle, and high schools.
 
The change will add staff to elementary schools such as World Language teachers and other instructional specialists to provide planning time for teachers. There will be no changes in music, art, or physical education, nor changes to Regulation 4422, which limits the number of hours that librarians, and other school-based professionals, can be dedicated to providing for planning time coverage.
 
Superintendent Karen Garza and her staff will convene focus groups of elementary principals, teachers, school staff, and other key stakeholders in July to work out the details of the implementation. Then, each school will communicate their individual schedule changes to parents before school begins on September 2.
 

Details on the new 2014-15 calendar can be found here:  http://www.fcps.edu/about/14-15cal.shtml

Teachers would gain unencumbered planning time with proposed schedule change

We are very fortunate that Steve Greenburg, the president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) strongly supports the proposal for full-day Mondays and dedicated teacher planning time. He has sent two messages to members within the last week. Here is the first message: [Read more...]

Elementary teachers and parents to receive survey on full-day Mondays

My FCPS – Employees has posted the following information:

A survey to gauge the support for a proposal to change shortened Mondays to a full school day at all elementary schools will be sent to all elementary teachers and parents this week.

To better maximize instructional time and provide dedicated planning time for elementary teachers, the School Board is considering changing the current shortened Monday schedule to a full-day Monday at all elementary schools. Superintendent Karen K. Garza recognizes that considering making this change for this coming school year is ambitious, but is compelled to consider this possibility due to the benefits to teachers, students, and families.

As part of this proposed change, the school division will develop regulations outlining minimum time guidelines for teacher-directed planning (a minimum of 240 minutes per week) and collaborative team planning (a minimum of 60 minutes per week) within the instructional day. A lack of adequate planning time for elementary teachers has been a continuing prevalent theme in the FCPS working conditions survey results. Additionally, no changes will be made in music, art, or physical education regulations. The length of the teacher workday will remain the same.

The proposed change also adds enough instructional hours so the need to add makeup days to the end of the school year is eliminated, and provides more flexibility to address make up days within the calendar.

For more information, go to the FCPS Full-Day Mondays website at http://www.fcps.edu/news/fulldaymonday.shtml.

The New PE deemphasizes competition

The Washington Post reports on a major shift in physical education classes to encourage children to learn “what it means to be healthy and physically active for a lifetime.” This is often call the New PE.

Out are dodgeball and other sports that use kids as targets, contests that reward students who are the strongest, and exercise doled out (or withheld) as a form of punishment: Still talking? Four more laps!

In are personal fitness plans, target heart-rate zones, and sports that play to different strengths and introduce students to activities that they can pursue across a lifetime. “Physically literate” and “lifelong movers” are buzzwords of the New PE.

The Post notes that a Fairfax County program gives students pedometers to track their exercise, but fails to note that currently elementary school students only have enough time in the week to allow 10 minutes per day for recess. It’s true that the students are usually allowed more time for recess, but the current official policy is hardly an enlightened one. A more reasonable amount of recess will be included in the official master schedule if the Fairfax County School Board votes this month the eliminate Monday early dismissals next year.

Most Fairfax County elementary schools provide 60 minutes of PE per week, a few provide 90 minutes per week.

The Post reports:

Just six states require elementary schools to provide at least 150 minutes of physical education a week, as recommended by the physical educators’ association. Just two states require middle or high schools to offer the recommended 225 minutes weekly, according to a state survey by researchers at the Bridging the Gap Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The 2010 Healthy Schools Act in the District requires elementary and middle schools to meet these standards by next school year. Virginia and Maryland laws have no time limits.

Note: This post was updated Sunday evening with more information about the recess policy in Fairfax.

Starr drops support of later high school start times

The Washington Post reports that Superintendent Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has changed his mind about supporting later high school start times. One reason was cost, which would have been about $20 million.

One paragraph in the public announcement from Montgomery County Public Schools gives a rather high cost estimate for increasing the length of the elementary school day from 6 hours and 15 minutes to 6 hours and 45 minutes:

The cost of adding 30 minutes to the elementary school day would vary depending on how the time was used. For instance, extending recess or lunch would cost about $8 million a year, while increasing art, music, and/or physical education classes would cost about $47 million per year.

I wonder whether further analysis would discover that these costs, which seem very high, could actually be kept lower. [Read more...]

Questions about the full-day Monday proposal

This morning Louise Epstein, the chair of the Fairfax Education Coalition, sent me quite a few interesting questions about the proposed full-day Monday schedule. As of this date, the Recommendations to FCPS Master Schedule document posted for the next work session on June 16 is the same PowerPoint presented May 28. At that meeting, Sandy Evans (Mason District) and other school board members asked for more details.

I urge the Fairfax administrators to provide a more detailed narrative explanation of the proposals for providing full-day Mondays and more teacher planning time. This explanation should include answers to the questions listed below.

Here are the questions Louise Epstein asks regarding the proposed full-day Monday schedule that was posted:

 1.  Is FCPS planning to change its current regulation that requires elementary school principals to provide 45 minutes of band/strings every week?  If so, what will the new FCPS regulation require elementary school principals to provide for band/strings every week?  Can the current regulation be posted as an attachment to the board agenda?

2.  Does the sample schedule posted assume that students spend less than 45 minutes/week in band or strings?  Does that include the time that students spend walking from their classroom to and from the band/strings room?

3.  Can staff provide sample “specials” schedules (including fine art, general music, chorus, strings, band, PE and foreign language) for students in schools with and without foreign language instruction, for students who fit the following profiles?

a. Participate in strings/band and chorus.

b.  Participate in chorus and general music.

c.  Participate in general music only.

d.  Participate in strings/band and general music.

3.  Can staff provide sample schedules that would explicitly give elementary school students the option to take 60 (or 45) consecutive minutes of band/strings every week?  Could these sample schedules be posted online for discussion at the June 16 work session?

4.  What are the citations to the state laws, regulations and policies that would impose minimum requirements for language arts and does the state require two hours/day of language arts instruction?  If not, why does the sample schedule provide about two hours/day of language arts instruction?

5.  What are the federal or state laws, regulations or policies – if any – that require the inclusion of about 30 minutes/day for “intervention & enrichment” during elementary school?  What do elementary school students who are at or above grade level do during these “intervention & enrichment” periods?

6.  How does elementary school foreign language instruction potentially affect the number of minutes scheduled for band or strings in the sample schedules?

Fairfax does not stipulate how long recess should be

On February 27 I requested a copy of any written policy on the subject of recess in the elementary schools in Fairfax County Public Schools and any instructions to elementary school principals regarding recess. On March 14, I received a reply from Brandynn Reaves, Public Information Specialist, Department of Communications & Community Outreach.

It is significant that there is currently no written directive about the length of time that should be allowed for recess. However, we need to keep in mind that the number of hours in the current elementary school week only allows enough time for a maximum of 10 minutes per day of recess while still meeting the state requirements for the length of time in the standard school day.

Here is the information on the FCPS policy regarding recess:

The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Standards of Accreditation require a daily recess but the length of that recess or its location is not stipulated.  The Code of Virginia §22.1-207 states that physical and health education shall be emphasized throughout the public school curriculum by lessons, drills and physical exercises, and all pupils in the public elementary, middle, and high schools shall receive as part of the educational program such health instruction and physical training as shall be prescribed by the Board of Education and approved by the State Board of Health.  Here is a link to the code:  http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+22.1-207.

Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) Regulation 5008.2 addresses recess in elementary schools.  It states that “Elementary schools provide daily recess that promotes physical activity beyond physical education classes.”  For your convenience here is a link to the regulation: http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fairfax/Board.nsf/files/8JYHAH478D58/$file/R5008.pdf.

Additional information about Fairfax County Public School’s Health and Physical Education program can be found at: http://www.fcps.edu/is/hpe/index.shtml.

The Office of Safety and Security (OSS) encourages teachers and administrators at elementary schools to create a safe and fun environment for recess.  When the weather is inclement or when there are extremes in temperature, FCPS will often issue warnings to administrators regarding air quality or student safety.  Here is a link to the OSS’ Cold Weather Safety Sheet: http://www.fcps.edu/fts/safety-security/publications/seh-23.pdf.  FCPS’ OSS also publishes a Safety Rules for Outdoor Recess Fact Sheet (SAF-2) and the Playground Supervision Guidelines for Staff and Volunteers Fact Sheet (SAF-33) which can be found on the OSS General School Safety Fact Sheet website.

School administrators are also reminded that the school grounds (to include the playgrounds) should be inspected daily by custodial staff to determine whether any vandalism or significant safety issues have occurred overnight. On playgrounds, school staff should be noting playground equipment or ground cover in need of repair or replenishment.