Loudoun County approves plan to close schools for 4 extra days so teachers can finish trainings

Students in Loudoun County are getting four extra days off next year, as part of a plan to close schools so teachers can finish trainings.

On Tuesday night, the Virginia district’s school board unanimously voted to approve the plan, ending a nearly monthlong process to figure out how to get teachers more time for professional development.

Now, as part of next year’s school calendar, students will be off on Oct. 4, Nov. 4, Jan. 28 and June 16. Teachers will use the time to complete trainings tied to the Virginia Literacy Act and new math and English language arts standards of learning.

“We have worked with schools, the school leadership office, and the teaching and learning and student services departments to draft this schedule,” LCPS chief academic officer Ashley Ellis said at this week’s meeting. “It incorporates the VLA modules, the new math and ELA standards and additional, required professional learning.”

Before the extra action, Loudoun County already had three professional development days built into next school year’s calendar. But Superintendent Aaron Spence worried that they alone wouldn’t be providing teachers with enough time to meet the state requirements.

The final plan comes weeks after Spence first proposed a series of late-start days, which he said would have allowed teachers to finish the modules before students arrive. The initial proposal called for starting the school day two hours late on 16 days throughout the year. But the county received over 2,000 responses on its feedback form, and many were critical of the idea, worrying about things such as child care.

The four extra days off are “stand-alone days,” which are those that fall in between weekends or holidays, Ellis previously told the school board. They’re also days the county had been expecting students to be absent and teachers to request substitute coverage.

In May, Ellis told school board members that the idea for the extra development days is a one-time solution and not a recommendation for a permanent change to future school year calendars.

The school district considered late arrival times, early release days and paying teachers to finish trainings on their own time before moving forward with the plan that passed Tuesday.

County leaders previously identified lost instructional time and the need for school staff to find child care for their families as obstacles to the plan to have four more professional development days. However, students already exceed state requirements for daily instructional time by 45 minutes per day, meaning the county would still meet the required 180 days or 990 hours of yearly instruction even, with four more days off.

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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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