A new proposed schedule for elementary schools would see the end to a longstanding and long derided Fairfax County tradition: the two-hour final day of school.
Attending school for a scant two hours on the last day of the year has been standard practice, according to school officials. But a plan to eliminate Monday early dismissals for elementary schools would prompt a calendar change that would reshape the end of the school year.
In the current elementary schedule, the final bell rings 2.5 hours earlier on Mondays than it does the rest of the week. Adding that time into the school week would build cushioning into the calendar.
Currently, Virginia education laws require schools to maintain a 180-day or 990-hour schedule each year. With Monday early dismissals, Fairfax County elementary schools cannot meet the 990-hour requirement, so the school system instead uses the 180-day requirement.
The FCPS administration crafts a 183-day calendar, including three days of padding to account for emergency cancellations. But with the large number of snow days this year, the school system burned through those buffer days and more besides, necessitating three extra days tacked onto the end of the year to meet state requirements. The final day of school moved from Friday, June 20, to Wednesday, June 25.
“Even now, in the waning days of the year, I have very upset parents coming to me saying they are infuriated by these extra days on the end of the school year,” said School Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield). “They know this isn’t the best solution.”
Schultz tried with fellow School Board member Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) to get rid of the two-hour final day on Wednesday.
However, their motion to move those two hours to create a full day for elementary schools on Monday, June 23, failed to pass, as other School Board members noted that the state Board of Education told FCPS administrators that any waiver request would be denied.
Still, across the division students are being excused for the last day of school. According to an email sent to South Lakes High School families, all students will report to the cafeteria for the two-hour school day on June 25. Teachers will be available to meet with students to share final grades, but absences will be excused.
According to Fairfax Education Association president Kimberly Adams, many schools across the county are following a similar pattern.
“So now you’ve got parents questioning, why are students even showing up?” Adams said.
Building extra hours would allow the school system to go by the 990-hour state requirement. The hours added throughout the school year would allow the school system to have up to 13 snow days without needing a makeup day.
That would establish a firm date for the end of the school year, without the worry of makeup days hanging over the school system.
With the new calendar proposal, school officials also took the initiative to set a new precedent, eliminating the two-hour last day in years moving forward. The final day would instead become a two-hour early release day.