After a mere 40 years Fairfax County School Board voted last night ten to one to support the superintendent’s request to eliminate early release on Monday for elementary school students. Only board member Kathy Smith voted against the plan saying she wanted more discussion and a year’s delay in implementation of the plan. This vote means elementary school students will have a similar schedule Monday through Friday with two and a half hours of additional of instructional time each week.
Under the plan, proposed by Superintendent Karen Garza, and now adopted by the School Board, Fairfax county would move from a 180 day schedule to 990 hour schedule similar to Loudoun County’s schedule. The 990 hour schedule adds 10 days to the school year, eliminating the need to make up any school days missed because of inclement weather.
“I believe this change is necessary because it is the solution to address the long standing need to increase the amount of self-directed planning time for our elementary teachers,” Garza said in a statement to The Washington Post. “It also addresses the calendar problems that we encountered this year which forced us to extend the school year until June 25. I am mindful of the challenges we will face should we determine it is best to move forward with the change for this coming September.”
The cost of the new plan is estimated to be $7 million, much of it going to teachers who will be required to be in the classroom for a full day on Monday. School Board Chairman Ilryong Moon (At Large) said the funding can be found in the surplus from the current school year budget. Despite the School Board’s claims of a funding ‘crisis’ during the budget battles with the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, no such crisis materialized and we’ve learned that schools often end the year with millions left to spend.
I am anxious to learn the back story on this change since the community and parents have asked for a full day of school on Monday for decades. Teachers and their powerful unions were always able to block the changes. Fairfax was one the last counties in the US to still have this practice. It was particularly surprising in an area with a high population of low income families where children were more likely to return to a home shortly after noon and be without adult supervision until evening.