Students in Arlington, Virginia, will have a longer summer and shorter winter break next year as part of the 2023-24 calendar the school board approved Thursday night.
After weeks of planning and discussion, the board honed in on two options: One with the same start date as surrounding jurisdictions and a longer winter break, and another with a later start date and shorter winter break.
The calendar with the shorter winter break passed 3 to 2, with some board members expressing concern that a shorter break around the holidays may not give students enough time to unwind before returning to class.
“My desire was to maker sure we had three things: 180 days, that we honored our religious holidays, and that we aligned our spring break to our surrounding school divisions as best we could,” Superintendent Francisco Duran said.
Under the approved calendar, students will start school Aug. 28, 2023, a few days after schools in Loudoun and Prince William counties, and Alexandria and Falls Church, open to students.
Winter break will be eight days — Dec. 21 to Jan. 1, 2024 — and spring break will be March 25 to March 29, which aligns with several nearby school systems. All students will end the school year by June 14, 2024.
Board member Cristina Diaz-Torres, who voted against the calendar that was selected, said the shorter winter break is problematic because “the last two years in particular have proven that taking the time to actually pause and to reset is incredibly important — not just for our students, but particularly for our staff.”
Responses to the school system’s calendar survey indicated a desire to have a schedule in alignment with nearby jurisdictions. Some also suggested the calendar included too many holidays.
Next year’s calendar includes time off for holidays such as Yom Kippur and Eid al-Fitr, among others.
The school system, Diaz-Torres said, is working to develop a policy that clarifies the calendar planning process for the community.
In the policy, she said, “We will also be enshrining not only the holidays that we intend to recognize, but also the process for adding or removing in the future, so that it does not become a decision that is arbitrarily subject to particular boards, but rather something that has a process associated with it.”
Board member Mary Kadera called the choice “an excellent compromise calendar.”