On June 26, 2014, the Fairfax County School Board voted 10-1 to implement full-day Mondays in September 2014. This much-needed reform was a big improvement over the Monday-early dismissal policy. This approach, which covers all the elementary schools, is also better than some of the other options discussed below.
Fairfax County needed to provide full-day Mondays for the elementary school students in order to comply with the requirements in the Standards of Accreditation for the standard school day.
Previous to September 2014, the total overall time the elementary school students had in school averaged 6 hours and 10 minutes per day. One half hour of this time was devoted to lunch. Therefore 10 minutes per day was available for recess. However, most schools allowed students to have more than 10 minutes per day for recess; therefore these students had less than 5 ½ hours in the standard school day. Congratulations to the Fairfax County School Board for correcting this deficiency by ending Monday early dismissals.
This new approach is similar to suggestions made several times over the past 25 years. Several past proposals to provide full-day Mondays for the students were also coupled with plans to provide additional specialists (in subjects such as physical education, art, music, etc.) or additional instructional assistants. This is nice to have for the benefit of the students as well as allowing classroom teachers to have additional planning time within the student day.
Over the past 25 years there have been four previous proposals to provide full-day Mondays for all elementary school students while providing alternative planning time for classroom teachers. One proposal would have cost $3.6 million. It was criticized as being too cheap. The other proposals ranged in cost from $5.6 million to $13 million. These proposals were rejected as too expensive.
Another method of providing full-day Mondays in Fairfax County was used in 15 of the 16 Project Excel Schools. These 15 schools added an additional seven percent to the salaries of the teachers, librarians, counselors, and instructional assistants and added a half-hour to their workday. Instead of having a contract for 6.5 hours when the students were in school plus an additional hour before and after school for planning, meetings, and activities, these staff members were asked stay 1.5 hours in school when students were not there. So instead of a 7.5-hour contract day, they had an 8-hour contract day.
In the 2007-8 school year, the cost of the seven percent extra salary for the teachers, counselors, librarians, and instructional assistants was $5.7 million. Due to this high cost, the Fairfax County School Board phased out Project Excel.
Some people suggested providing full-day Mondays while shortening the other days in the week. If the amount of time the elementary school students had in school prior to September 2014 were evenly divided among the five days of the week, the students would have had 6 hours and 10 minutes in school each day. This would allow only 10 minutes per day for recess.
Another disadvantage of shortening the Tuesday through Friday schedule would have been increased transportation costs. According to the Report of the Subcommittee on Restructuring the Elementary School Day, (October 1989) “Regardless of the length of the high school and intermediate school day, the 6 1/2-hour elementary school day options are the most effective to control school bus transportation costs. The most expensive transportation options are related to the 6-hour elementary day because they require a considerable amount of driver lay-over time.”
(Updated August 18, 2015.)