Loudoun Co. proposes 16 delayed-start days next year to allow teachers to meet training requirements

Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia is considering adding 16 delayed-start days to the calendar for the 2024-25 school year, as part of a plan to give teachers more time to complete critical trainings.

The proposal, which Superintendent Aaron Spence presented to the school board Tuesday night, is the result of new standards covering several subject areas getting implemented at the same time.

Under the plan, the school district would have teachers start their days at the regular time, but students would arrive two hours late. That would happen roughly two days per month, Spence said.

The county has three professional development days already included in next year’s calendar, but Spence said he’s concerned those days wouldn’t provide enough time for the district’s teachers to finish all the trainings.

The Virginia Literacy Act requires up to 27 hours of required trainings for K-8 teachers, according to school board documents. The Virginia Department of Education has also approved new math and English Standards of Learning, which will be implemented next school year.

Teachers usually take part in a variety of trainings. Some are required by state law, some are required by the state education department, and others are either required or recommended by the school district.

Spence said Loudoun County is scaling back some of its countywide training modules to make sure educators have enough time to catch up on others.

“In my entire career in education in Virginia, I have never quite seen so many expectations placed on school divisions at one time to deliver on with our teachers and prepare our teachers for,” he said.

Spence said the state hasn’t yet provided guidance on how to address those concerns. In a statement, VDOE said it’s helping school divisions prepare for the new standards by putting together “its most extensive ever summer training schedule.” It said training for implementing the Virginia Literacy Act has been ongoing for several months.

“VDOE is committed to making sure that every school division has the information and expertise they need to successfully implement these improved standards,” the statement said.

Before recommending the delayed start days — which are still subject to school board approval — the county considered offering early release for all students. However, that would have impacted after-school activities, Spence said.

Leaders also considered adding contractual days for teachers, but found that would have had a significant budget impact, and they said they thought about using unassigned days but believed that time is already used for other planning and training.

As part of the delayed-start option, Spence said the district is considering what child care options it could make available for families on late start days. That may look like students getting dropped off and being supervised by staff members other than their teachers to start the day.

“We feel like, for a variety of reasons, that gives us the best possible opportunity to be providing that professional learning for our teachers while also minimizing the amount of disruption to our instructional program,” Spence said. “We also think it’s likely to be the best solution for parents.”

When standards change, Spence said teachers have to learn the new standards and any changes from the old standards. They also have to review class materials, to make sure they cover the changes.

The situation is unique, he said, because school divisions usually get a year before the standards are implemented to review their materials and prepare for any changes.

Initially when new standards are used, Spence said there’s a drop in test scores, “because teachers and students and everybody are getting ready and trying to understand what those new standards are.”

“When we’re being pushed forward as quickly as we are here with these new standards, I’m concerned that will happen at an even higher rate,” Spence added.

Spence said he expects other school divisions are thinking about the challenges in the same way. But spokespeople for Arlington and Fairfax County Public Schools said those districts aren’t considering changes to their calendars to allow for more planning time.

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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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