What are the calendar options for Northern Va. schools, and what does that mean for snow days?

Welcome to the School Zone, WTOP’s weekly feature about the latest topics and trends in education across the D.C. region.

What to know about calendar options for some DC-area school systems

What it is: The current school year is barely a few months old, but school boards across the D.C. region are already thinking about the next one.

Board members, with the help and research from school staff and superintendents, work in the fall to begin developing calendar options for the next school year.

Approving a school year calendar is typically preceded by surveying teachers and parents to gather feedback on the options.

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When working to develop calendars, school officials consider things like religious holidays, teacher planning days and the total number of days students will spend in class each school year.

What it means: Calendar options considered by local jurisdictions tend to be similar, with minor differences in start and end dates, length of seasonal breaks and religious holidays that all students will be off for.

In Virginia’s Prince William, Loudoun and Arlington counties, work on calendars for next year is already underway.

Regional snapshot: On Wednesday night, the school board in Prince William County, the state’s second-largest school system, was presented with options for the 2023-24 school year calendar.

Virginia requires all counties to have 180 school days or 990 hours, according to a school board presentation, and a calendar committee to craft three draft options. All of the options include days off for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Diwali and Eid Al Fitr.

The three possibilities include different start dates for teachers, two possible end dates for students and differences in the length of winter break.

A survey that received 9,000 responses revealed 48% of people supported option three in the chart below, and that some people are calling for fewer holidays and a longer winter break.

Options for the 2023-24 school year calendar in Prince William County. Click to expand. (Courtesy Prince William County Public Schools)

Regarding snow days, Superintendent LaTanya McDade said, “Right now, the number of minutes that we have scheduled would buffer us so that if we have snow days, we wouldn’t have to add any days on the back end of the calendar.”

Calendar approval in Prince William is scheduled for Nov. 15.

In Loudoun County, focus groups with staff, parents and community members were held before putting together three draft options.

Start and end dates are different in the three choices, but many parents, staff, community members and students provided the most support for a calendar with a start date of Aug. 21 for students and end date of June 7.

Possible calendars for next year in Loudoun County. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy Loudoun County Public Schools)

Regarding snow days, Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Boland said, “We looked at the number of snow days and the number of instructional days and the number of instructional hours and mapped out based on historical practices the number of snow days that we have typically provided.”

Community members in Arlington have until Nov. 8 to provide feedback on calendar options, which includes different starting dates and dates for winter and spring break.

Proposed calendars for the next school year in Arlington. Click to expand. (Courtesy Arlington Public Schools)

The school system, Superintendent Francisco Duran said, for the current year will close for up to seven snow days and then have distance learning for any days beyond those.

The school board in Fairfax County is expected to begin working on the calendar for next year in December.

A spokeswoman said Virginia’s largest school system hasn’t released its winter weather plan yet.

Talking points: Families in Loudoun County, Boland said, indicated, “There are too many holidays, too many days off, and that students need more instructional time.”

Prince William County Board Member Loree Williams said, “I think it’s important to understand that the calendar is yet again another tool that the school division uses that is sort of split duties. We as the board approve it. But, a lot of the calendar’s really operational in nature, we don’t set when report cards come out, we don’t set [what] back in the day used to be called ‘interims’ and those kinds of things.”

By the numbers
Some data that caught WTOP this week.

Tutoring tally: Most Fairfax County Public School students did not use a free online tutoring service that was made available to all kids at the end of the last school year, a recently-released report found.

About 1.6% of the student population used the service, which is expected to cost over $2 million in each of the next two years.

Several D.C.-area school systems offered similar services to students.

[Read more about the report’s findings on WTOP.com]

What Scott’s Reading

  • DC Council delays COVID-19 vaccination requirements for students [WTOP]
  • Closure of 2 Prince George’s Co. elementary schools could be delayed [WTOP]
  • Virginia education tip line shuts down [WTOP]
  • DC high school cyclist perseveres to finish 1st mountain bike race after crash damages bike [WTOP]
  • Parents say MCPS teacher shortages are hurting students’ academic progress [Bethesda Beat]
  • Disabled kids fighting school placements ‘almost always lose,’ Va. suit says [Washington Post]

Field Trip 

Here’s a fun thought ahead of the weekend.

Rivalry weekend: Heading to Miami for the Canes-Florida State game. Let’s hope I don’t regret that decision.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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