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School Board members last week discussed possibly implementing full-day attendance on Mondays for kindergarten through sixth grades. Currently, elementary school students in Fairfax County have half days on Mondays. The remaining half of the day is used by teachers for lesson planning and in-house training.

The School Board’s discussion on extending Mondays was part of a larger meeting on July 18 where plans to help reduce teacher workloads and increase planning time were presented by staff.

“In the planning time… I think we need to start talking about how do we get to full-day Mondays [for elementary schools],” School Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield District) said. “How do we establish full-day Mondays and solve the planning issue at the same time? It’s a problem that I think has persisted for too long and it needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. We need to do it. It’s good for kids. It’s good for parents. It’s good for working parents.”

Several board members said that because FCPS was looking at solving teacher lesson-planning time countywide, now might be an opportunity to also look at full-day Mondays. If the school system were to go to full-day Mondays, additional time would need to be added to elementary school teachers’ work days.

“This is a very important issue that I think not just the teachers but the entire community needs to be engaged in,” School Board Chairman Ilyrong Moon (At-large) said. “When we did take a look at this back in the 1990s there was a huge cost implication. In making sure teachers were still provided adequate planning time, protect their planning time the most obvious solution requires a lot of resources and that requires a commitment from the community.”

Moon and fellow School Board member Jane Strauss (Dranesville District) served on the School Board in the 1990s. Strauss said full-day Monday discussions were halted because of costs.

“It was a 7 percent increase in the cost of elementary instruction,” she said.

School Board member Megan McLaughlin (Braddock District) also voiced interest in looking at making the shift to full-day Mondays.

“It would be a big cultural shift,” she said. “But one of the biggest hurdles and concerns [we hear from teachers] has been the loss of planning time that could happen with that.” She said discussions on extending the day need to involve teachers and principals.

While no next steps were scheduled by School Board members during the July 18 meeting, the topic could come up again this fall.

“[I] think the time is right for us to look at this issue again,” Moon said. “I do not see an immediate solution to this but we need to find out what is required and hopefully we can set a long term plan just like we did the one for full-day [kindergarten].”

In 2011, the School Board voted to expand the kindergarten day from a half-day to a full-day at 37 or the county’s 139 elementary schools.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com