On Thursday the Fairfax County School Board voted to add a day to the end of the 2013-14 school calendar as a makeup day for the 11th missed day of the year due to weather. The board’s action makes Wednesday, June 25, the last day of the 2013-14 year. It will be an early dismissal day for all students.
“This has been a unique and challenging year due to snowstorms both early and late in the season,” said FCPS Superintendent Karen K. Garza. “We explored the option of counting instructional hours instead of days; however, our elementary schools would have fallen far short due to our current model of early release Mondays.”
We can avoid such a situation next year, even in the event of another bad winter, by eliminating the Monday early dismissal policy in the elementary schools. A staff committee is already studying options for how to implement full-day Mondays and make other changes in the schedule. To support full-day Mondays, please sign this petition to the Fairfax County School Board to stop Monday early dismissals and provide more recess time. The petition at the link in the previous sentence is posted with Change.org by our Full Schooldays group.
“We understand that adding another day to the end of the school year is not ideal,” Garza said. “But we have consulted with our teachers groups and principal associations, and have strong consensus that adding June 25 as a makeup day is our best option. We will work with our schools to plan meaningful learning experiences for these June makeup days. We are also exploring modifications to the 2014-15 calendar to ensure that we are not in this situation again.”
FCPS’ adopted calendar for school year 2013-14 identified specific makeup days – February 17, April 7, June 23, and June 24. The calendar approved by the School Board for the current year provided a plan for 10 makeup days. The 11th snow day occurred on March 17, requiring the need for an additional makeup day.
FCPS officials contacted the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to discuss the possibility of a waiver for June 23-25. VDOE advised that a waiver would not be granted for June 23 and 24 because those days are already reflected in the Board approved calendar for 2013-14 and it would be unlikely that a waiver would be granted for June 25 because state law requires school divisions to certify that all reasonable efforts for making up lost teaching days or teaching hours were exhausted before requesting a waiver. Other Virginia jurisdictions have added time to the instructional day, eliminated early release days, or added full days to comply with the 180 day or 990 hour instructional requirement.
Garza noted that staff had considered converting the early dismissal Mondays into full days this year, “but that would have eliminated critical planning time for elementary teachers, which was a real concern for us.”
I’m sure that a solution to provide adequate teacher planning time and full day Mondays for students can be found for next year.
At the school board meeting on Thursday, Megan McLaughlin (Braddock District) proposed a substitute motion to make Monday, June 23, a full instructional day for elementary school students and then ask the Virginia Board of Education to reduce the statutory 180-day requirement. She and Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield District) said that they thought that the Virginia Board of Education would find it reasonable to substitute the extra hours on Monday afternoon for the elementary schools for the few scheduled hours on Wednesday, June 25. They were the only school board members voting for the motion, which failed.
Here is the text of the failed substitute motion: “I move that the School Board (1) reaffirm the approved 2013-2014 Standard School Year Calendar, including the employee contract end dates, as detailed in the agenda item, (2) designate Monday, June 23, 2014, as a full instructional school day for elementary students, (3) direct the Superintendent to work with the Virginia Board of Education on a reduction of the statutory 180 day requirement, (4) designate Wednesday, June 25, 2014, as an additional school day and last day of school for students should the efforts with the Virginia Board of Education fail, and (5) direct savings to the FY 2014 year-end balance.”
Correction: The sentence regarding the substitute motion was corrected to add “elementary school” before “students and then ask…” April 18, 2014