How long should winter break be? Montgomery, Arlington schools working on new calendars

School officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Arlington, Virginia, are in the process of developing calendars for the next school year as some parents across the D.C. area say current calendars include too many days off.

Dana Edwards, chief of district operations in Montgomery County, said at a meeting this week that in weighing calendar options for 2023-24, there’s more to think about than when the first and last days of school should be.

Dates, she said, have to be considered “in the context of who will this advantage, and who might this disadvantage?”

Since starting to plan for next year’s calendar, school officials have had focus group meetings with more than 1,000 participants, according to school board documents.    

A survey on possible calendar choices earlier this month also yielded nearly 7,500 responses.

Among things under consideration: whether the school year should start earlier for academic purposes, how many professional development days should be included and how long breaks should be.

Over one-third of those who responded to the survey favored a start date of Aug. 28, 2023, and end date of June 18, 2024.

An option that 25% of respondents favored features a one-week Thanksgiving break and earlier start and end dates.

Calendar options in Montgomery County, Maryland, for the 2023-24 school year.

Over 50% of people indicated the start and end date was most influential in picking their top choice.

Superintendent Monifa McKnight is scheduled to make a calendar recommendation Dec. 6.

In Arlington, meanwhile, the school board is scheduled to be briefed on calendar choices for the first time next week. Superintendent Francisco Duran’s proposed option includes a start date of Aug. 21 and end date in mid-June.

Duran’s option would include days off for Yom Kippur, Indigenous Peoples Day and Eid al-Fitr, among others.

Proposed calendar options for Arlington Public Schools for the 2023-24 school year.

Virginia requires all school systems to have 180 school days or a total of 990 instructional hours each year.

Many responses to Arlington Public Schools’ calendar survey called on the school system to adopt a calendar similar to those in surrounding jurisdictions.

Some also said there are too many religious holidays included in the calendar.

“While I understand the need to be inclusive of religious holidays, I would advocate for removing most/all of them instead of having so many,” one response said.

Prince William County schools received similar responses regarding religious holidays as it crafted its 2023-24 calendar. Earlier this month, School Board member Jennifer Wall wondered whether Virginia’s second-largest school system includes too many days off in its calendar.

“I know for working parents, it can be hard to find child care for multiple one-off days,” Wall said. “And many don’t have so many personal days off from their jobs to stay home for those random holidays.”

The Prince William County school board recently voted to approve its 2023-24 calendar, which includes an Aug. 21 start date and June 7 end date.

In a newsletter earlier this week, Fairfax County School Board member Melanie Meren said conversations about next year’s calendar are expected to begin in January.

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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