Fairfax County considers school calendar changes to prepare for snow days

WASHINGTON — Last winter’s severity resulted in makeup days that will keep students in Fairfax County in class until the end of June. Now, Fairfax County Public Schools is rethinking its calendar, in part to avoid a repeat.

A proposal now before the school board would provide a softer cushion to absorb snow days by eliminating the two-and-a-half-hour early release for elementary students on Mondays.

State law requires either 180 days or 990 hours of instruction. The latter requirement would offer more wiggle room in the event of a winter like the last one, but the current elementary schedule at FCPS does not provide enough hours.

“In the proposed calendar, it does include 180 days, but if days were lost due to snow or bad weather, the change in the elementary schedule means we could switch to the 990-hour requirement without the need for makeup days,” says John Torre, an FCPS spokesman.

The proposed changes do not affect junior and senior high, apart from a likely reduction in makeup days at the end of the year.

“This [proposal] is aimed at getting the elementary schools to meet the 990-hour requirement,” Torre says.

He describes the proposal’s objectives as twofold: “One is the need for additional planning time for elementary school teachers, and the second is an attempt to avoid a repeat of this past winter, when 11 school days were cancelled, which forced classes to be extended to June 25.”

The Washington Post reports that the shift to an hourly accounting would allow FCPS to withstand 13 snow days in an academic year without having to adjust the calendar.

The school board now takes up the proposal to decide if and when to implement the changes. They could take effect by the beginning of school in September.

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