How long should winter break be? Fairfax Co. school board expected to vote on calendar next week

Virginia’s largest school system is scheduled to vote on a future calendar at its meeting next week, after a weekslong process that included community feedback.

It’s unclear, though, whether Fairfax County Public School board members will support just a calendar for 2023-24, or a multiyear plan as some have advocated for.

At a work session this week, Board member Karl Frisch said he would vote in favor of a three-year calendar. The ability to look ahead for planning purposes is essential, Frisch said when the concept was first introduced as a possibility.

Nonetheless, school officials will be choosing from four calendar options that have different end dates and break lengths. Some of the choices have school beginning two weeks before Labor Day, while one choice has classes starting one week before the holiday.

The length of winter break also varies, with some options having two full school weeks designated for spring break and others featuring less time off than that.

“Longer winter break is preferable to many families, we’ve seen that in the survey data,” said Sloan Presidio, the county’s chief academic officer. “It’s often preferable to teachers as well to have that break. When people are fresh, renewed and come back with energy, I think that’s always a positive.”

All of the options include more five-day school weeks than are built into the current school year’s calendar.

“‘I’ve heard from members in the community and have continued to be concerned about maximizing the number of instructional days,” Board member Karen Keys-Gamarra said.

Nearly 23,000 community members responded to a county survey seeking feedback on the calendars, with one theme suggesting they care about start date and winter break length the most.

But in a letter to Superintendent Michelle Reid on Friday, the Fairfax County Parents Association said it doesn’t support any of the calendar options, because planning didn’t include coordination with county and regional authorities and the options include “far too many disrupted weeks.”

Virginia law requires school system calendars to include either 180 days or 990 hours of instructional time.

A vote is scheduled for the board’s Feb. 9 meeting.

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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