Last week, the Fairfax County School Board approved an August start date for the next school year, marking the first time in decades that area schools will start before Labor Day.
That means school will also let out earlier next year on June 15. In past years, students have gone to class as late as June 25.
Outgoing FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said earlier this year the change is being made to provide more instructional time before winter break, provide enhanced flexibility to help students and school staff members meet college application deadlines and to end the school year earlier in June.
Additionally, some FCPS parents have said they are glad for the change because letting out earlier in June will afford their children better summer internship and enrichment opportunities.
However, many families have expressed dismay over the decision, citing a number of reasons:
‘Traditional’ summer vacation — In a poll issued to FCPS families prior to the school board’s vote, 84 percent of those against the earlier start date said they preferred a “traditional” summer vacation schedule, giving kids all of August off before starting school in September. Others said it made no sense to them to start school before Labor Day when right away in the second week of school, they have a day off to observe the Labor Day holiday. Sixty-four percent of families said the new schedule would disrupt long-held vacation plans.
Shortening of summer/temporary status of waiver — Twenty-eight percent of families against the earlier start date pointed out that the waiver from the state, allowing FCPS to start school before Labor Day — which has long been mandated via the 1986 “King’s Dominion Rule” — is temporary, only allowing the district to start school in August through the 2019-20 school year. Many parents said they did not support the earlier start date if it is going to be temporary, especially if they would have to switch back again in a few years once the waiver expired.
Others pointed out that, in the first year of implementation, their children are losing a week of summer vacation with the early start.
Hot temperatures in August — Many parents say they are worried about students being in hot, under-air-conditioned classrooms in summer temperatures that are often in the 90s.
What do you think of the new August start date? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below letting us know why you voted the way you did.
The Fairfax County School Board approved the calendar for the 2017-18 school year this week, with school starting on Monday, Aug. 28, and ending earlier than usual, on Friday, June 15.
Although the law in Virginia — called the “Kings Dominion Rule” — mandates that school should start after Labor Day, Fairfax County Public Schools applied for a waiver from the commonwealth. FCPS was informed in February that it could get the waiver until at least the 2019-20 school year because the district had canceled school an average of at least eight days per year in at least five of the past 10 years due to inclement weather.
In the 2013-14 school year, FCPS was forced to add three days to the end of the school year due to missing more than the maximum number of school days allowed, Washington Post reported.
Following that school year, discussions began about starting the instructional calendar earlier. This past spring, the district polled families to gauge their support for moving the first day of school into August.
Parents who participated in the survey were fairly evenly split, 52 to 47 percent, between those in favor of and those opposed to the earlier start date, respectively. More than 60 percent of responding FCPS staff said they favored the change.
Outgoing FCPS Superintendent Karan Garza had long advocated for the change as well.
“These changes are being made to provide more instructional time before winter break, enhanced flexibility to help students and school staff members meet college application deadlines, and to end the school year earlier in June,” FCPS officials said Thursday.
The 2017-18 school year will include a full two weeks off in winter, letting out Dec. 18, 2017 and resuming on Jan. 2, 2018.
The full 2017-18 calendar is on the district’s website.
Photo via Fairfax County Public Schools
The school board has elected Sandy Evans (Mason District) as chair and Jane Strauss (Dranesville District) as vice chair for a one-year term. The chair and vice chair assumed office at the July 14 School Board meeting; they are elected by School Board members during the Board’s annual organizational meeting.
This ends the one-year term of Hunter Mill rep Pat Hynes, who was elected as chair in July 2015. (more…)
However, the league also says the move has more to do with geography than reaction to insensitive comments made by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. and reaction from the Fairfax County Public Schools Board.
Nine of the 12 FCPS Board members wrote to the VHSL late last month advocating that future VHSL events no longer be held at the Lynchburg, Va., school.
The FCPS board comments came in support of several FCPS students who boycotted the VSHL Debate tournament in April in protest of Falwell’s comments last December. At that time, Falwell urged students to obtain concealed-carry permits and arm themselves so they could “end those Muslims.”
Nine members of the Fairfax County School Board are urging the Virginia High School League (VHSL) to stop holding events and competitions at Liberty University in Lynchburg.
Two weeks ago, several Fairfax County Public Schools students boycotted the VHSL Debate Championships at the Christian University. The students said they were protesting remarks by made by Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. that they perceived to be anti-Muslim.
At a convocation in December, Falwell urged students to obtain concealed-carry permits and arm themselves so they could “end those Muslims.” Falwell later said he was referring only to the Islamic terrorists who killed 14 people in December in San Bernardino, Calif., not all Muslims. (more…)
The Hunter Mill Candidates Forum is at 2 p.m. at RCC Hunters Woods.
Expected to appear is hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, who is running unopposed, as well as school board candidates for the Hunter Mill seat.
Running for school board is Pat Hynes, the current FCPS board chair who is seeking re-election to a second term, and challenger Mark Wilkinson, and Oak Hill businessman.
The entire FCPS school board is up for re-election in the Nov. 3 race. There are nine candidates running for three At-Large seats.
Hynes, of Reston, is a former lawyer and teacher who has served on the board since 2012.
“Maintaining Fairfax County Public Schools’ world-class reputation in the twenty-first century demands visionary leadership,” Hynes says on her website. “This community expects its schools to be the best. We are preparing our students for careers that do not yet exist. What we know for sure is that our graduates will have to be flexible, creative problem-solvers who collaborate well and have strong communication skills. We must continue to build a culture that innovates from the classroom, supports our world class educators and sets high expectations for every student.”
Wilkinson says on his website he is concerned about FCPS’ budget, class sizes, and other issues.
“I believe that the children of Fairfax County must come first with any decisions made by the school establishment, particularly the School Board,” says Wilkinson. “I am well suited to be an independent and non-partisan advocate for children and sound education.
“As a parent, I know that no one knows a child and his/her needs as well as a parent. I have been troubled by the appearance, the current Board has given, that it has a disregard for parent knowledge and involvement. There is no room for a “we know best” attitude from the School Board.”
Photos: Pat Hynes (top) and Mark Wilkinson (bottom).