The board voted 10-1 in favor of Superintendent Karen Garza’s proposal to eliminate early-release Mondays. Kathy Smith was opposed, saying that the board should wait for more discussion and implement it in 2015-16. One board member was absent from the meeting.
Fairfax County Public Schools have for decades released elementary school students 2 1/2 hours early on Mondays in order for teachers to have planning time. The “mini-Mondays” were generally unpopular with FCPS parents, who often had to scramble child care plans one day a week.
The new calendar changes how FCPS counts yearly instructional time. Garza proposed the change because allows for more snow days without making them up and also allows for more self-directed planning time for teachers.
Under the new plan, the required 180-day school year will meet the mark with a 990-hour school year. Both are options under Virginia rules. Loudoun County uses the 990-hour system and does not have to scramble when winter wreaks havoc on the schedule.
Under the current system, Fairfax has three days built in for weather cancellations. FCPS says the system uses an average of four a year. By moving to an hourly system, the schools would be able to absorb 13 snow days in a school year because students would already be in school for the required number of hours.
In 2013-14, a particularly snowy winter, FCPS used 11 snow days. That pushed the end of the school year to June 25 in order to have the required makeup days.
Garza says the new calendar will allow two weeks of winter break, 20 minutes of daily recess and will not alter arts or physical eduction time.
The plan is expected to cost more than $7 million to implement. Garza said the money is available due to unanticipated revenues from law enforcement activities.