Conflicting emotions arose following the release of the 2018-2019 calendar for Fairfax County Public Schools. Changes in the calendar include a delayed winter break and three-hour early releases.
According to an FCPS School Board news release, the reason behind the board’s decisions is to focus on instruction and learning time for students, as well as improved opportunities for staff.
“The reason for the three-hour early dismissals is to give teachers more time to do productive professional development,” FCPS School Board Member At-Large Ryan McElveen said via text message. “Two hours each time is not enough to engage in thorough and useful trainings.”
A total of 14 teacher workdays, staff development and school planning days are embedded into the calendar. For teachers, the extra development time is needed to prepare for classes and complete other school-related tasks.
“I think anything that gives teachers more time to do the non-instructional work that we do is good because we do not have enough time to do that now,” math teacher Linda Della Corna said. “Most teachers spend at least four to five hours outside of every workday doing work because the one planning period we get is never enough.”
Next school year, winter break will begin on Dec. 24 and end on Jan. 4, as opposed to this school year when it started on Dec. 18 and ended on Jan. 1. Although some use the break for religious activities, McElveen said the break is a time provided for students to rejuvenate and spend time with family.
“Personally, I appreciated having the week before Christmas off,” sophomore Angie Loayza said. “My church does a lot of activities that week, including volunteer opportunities and charity events, and I would have loved to participate and give back to my community and church.”
According to the FCPS 2018-2019 calendar, the school board decided to push spring break back three weeks, now from Apr. 15 to Apr. 19. The break centers around Easter this upcoming year, as it was in the past.
“We have a lot of breaks in February and March but not in April or May, so it’s nice to have spring break a little later to have something to look forward to,” sophomore Soven Bhagat said.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which was previously a two-hour early release, is now a day off.
“I think it’s nice especially for people who are traveling because it gives them time to make Thanksgiving Break more substantial,” Bhagat said. “We would [not] do that much on early release days.”
The board also eliminated the two-hour early dismissals that previously took place on the last day of each quarter. However, there are five three-hour early release days spread throughout the school year.
“Dismissals on the day the quarter ends are a waste,” Loayza said. “I think it’s more beneficial to have the releases throughout the year, so students actually have assignments to work on, which is usually not the case at the end of the quarter.”
As stated on the FCPS 2018-2019 calendar, during these three-hour early release days, teachers remain in school for planning and development.
“Teachers have so many other obligations using up the time that we’re here during the day,” Della Corna said. “So we are using our time in the evenings and on weekends, and that almost becomes unsustainable. We can’t do everything we are asked without sacrificing our health and personal life.”