Fairfax County school board eliminates Monday half days

WASHINGTON — On a 10-1 vote, the Fairfax County School Board voted Thursday night to change the calendar for elementary schools, eliminating a long standing policy that allowed students to leave early on Mondays.

The change affects the nearly 100,000 elementary students enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools. Middle and high school students will not see a change.

The issue is one that has concerned parents for a long time. The schedule has created complex daycare situations for families with young children and working parents.

Since the 1970s, elementary school students were let out of school 2 1/2 hours early. Now, they will have a full day of class each day, meaning every week will effectively be 2 1/2 hours longer.

Among other things, more time in class will give the school system more flexibility to adjust when cancellations, such as snow days, crop up during the year.

“The cost will probably be around $7.5 million,” says Janie Strauss, a school board member.

“We have already heard from key members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors that they will help fund this,” she says.

Supporters of the change, including Superintendent Karen Garza, have said it will give teachers more planning time and provide parents with continuity throughout the week.

Currently, students spend a half day in class and teachers use the remainder of each Monday for lesson planning and in-house training.

According to Strauss, the school system will add money to its “teacher position reserve” which will allow individual schools to afford the extra hours of work.

“It will be a little different for each school depending on the size of the school, the staffing and the needs of the children,” says Strauss.

Board member Kathy Smith voted against the change, saying she was interested in voting to amend the proposal and waiting a year to implement it. One board member was absent.

The new calendar takes effect in September.

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