The superintendent of the Arlington, Virginia, public schools is recommending a change to the county’s bell schedule that would bring the total amount of time students spend in the classroom each day closer to times in surrounding jurisdictions.
Under superintendent Francisco Duran’s recommended proposal, middle schools would start the day at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:35 p.m.; the first cluster of elementary schools would begin at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:40 p.m.; high schools would begin at 8:20 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m., and the second cluster of elementary schools would begin at 9 a.m. and end at 3:50 p.m.
Reneé Harber, the assistant superintendent for facilities and operations, said the recommendation will bring total instruction time closer to the times used in Falls Church and Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax counties. Currently, Arlington schools are several minutes behind when compared to surrounding jurisdictions, depending on grade level.
The proposed changes came after the school system of about 27,000 students launched a comprehensive bell study. The last bell study was completed during the 1999-2000 school year, officials said at a board meeting last week.
“I just want to make it clear that we don’t take these decisions lightly,” School Board member David Priddy said. “For disrupting, so to speak, changing schedules for people’s normal routines.”
The board, Priddy said, has received additional feedback from teachers and parents. Action on the superintendent’s recommendation is scheduled for May 12.
In Arlington, 6,192 people responded to the bell schedule survey, with most respondents selecting maintaining the current bell schedule as their most favored response, Harber said. Parents and students were the two largest groups who completed the survey.
The favored recommendation, Harber said, will allow for flexible schedule routes and provides the potential for cost savings, because fewer bus drivers and attendants may be needed. It also would allow for better flexibility in addressing student extracurricular and sports transportation needs.
The school board in Prince William County also recently announced plans to survey parents on proposed changes to its bell schedule.