What goes into the school calendar?
- One hundred eighty days or 990 hours of instruction. - At FCCPS we start by going by days because of Short Wednesdays, yet we do exceed the hour requirement
- Currently, we start after Labor Day, and end, when possible by June 15
- Teacher workdays before and during the school year
- Professional Days - 9 (6 before school starts, three during the school year)
- Professional Development Days - 5 (2 before school starts and three during the school year)
- Faculty Flex Days - 6
- Make-Up Days - 5 days built into the Calendar. As soon as we lose a day, we revert to hours and have several days we can absorb before hitting the makeup days.
- Grading windows and student mini-breaks
- Holidays and breaks for families
- New Teacher Orientation - new teachers generally arrive one week before the return of all teachers.
What values does it reflect?
- Values of the community. Schools should be a reflection of their community.
- We want to ensure our students get as many days as needed to meet the code.
- Our teachers get time to develop and plan for the coming school year and during the school year.
- Students and teachers need breaks.
What is the contract length for teachers, administrators, etc.?
- Most teachers are on a 200-day contract and are required to be present for 194 - they get 6 Flex Days to go to summer conferences, summer planning, etc.
- Administrators are 11-month or 12-month depending on the position
- Some staff are on 200-day contracts and then are provided a per diem to work an extra additional month in the summer.
How has a decision traditionally been made about the school calendar?
- Ad Hoc Calendar committee developed in the fall - appointed by PEAC representatives and includes FCCPS leadership. Chief Academic Officer (CAO) is the lead for this work.
- Ad Hoc Calendar committee reviews start and end dates, holidays, vacations, teacher workdays, quarter balance, etc.
- Ad Hoc Calendar committee helps develop and reviews sample schedule(s)
- Sample schedule(s) the sent to FCCPS staff as a survey for feedback
- Feedback results shared with FCCPS
- The Superintendent accepts schedule
- The Calendar is then shared and voted on by the School Board
- The timing of the process is typically October-December
- The Clerk of the School Board is involved as well
Explanation of the new Virginia Legislation regarding the starting of school:
Per SB 1005 and HB 1652: Each local school board is “to set the school calendar so that the first day students are required to attend school is no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day unless the Board of Education waives such requirement for good cause.”
The law had previously required school boards to set their calendars so that the first day of student attendance was after Labor Day (absent the Board of Education waiving that requirement for good cause). The new code language requires school boards that set the first day of school before Labor Day to “close each school in the school division from the Friday immediately preceding Labor Day through Labor Day.”
Range of possibilities to include Pre and Post Labor Day Options
For the 2020-21 school year, Labor Day falls on Monday, September 7, 2020, therefore
- We can still start the day after Labor Day - Tuesday, September 8, 2020
- The earliest the school year could start is Monday, August 24, 2020 - 14 days before Labor Day
- For pre-Labor Day start, the first day of school could be as early as August 24 or as late as September 3. Under the revised law, schools must close on Friday, September 4, 2020, and Monday, September 7, 2020 (Labor Day)
- If school starts before Labor Day, the school year would likely end earlier - but not necessarily one day earlier for each day that we start earlier. We still need to build out the calendar with the workday, professional days, holidays, etc.
What are our neighboring jurisdictions doing with their calendars?
Overall, the majority of divisions in Virginia started before Labor Day this year. Prior to the state legislation change, schools were able to start before Labor Day if they received a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education based on the number of inclement weather days. For the current school year, the number of VA school districts starting before Labor Day:
- 83 out of Virginia's 133 districts are starting school before Labor Day.
- Number of VA Region IV school districts - 19
- Number of Region IV School districts that start before Labor Day - 16
- Number of Region IV School districts that start after Labor Day - 3 (ACPS, APS, FCCPS)
What about the jurisdictions where our staff live, to the degree that's different from the point above?
The following chart details where FCCPS’ employees live. The data reflects salary scales with Admin being FCCPS Administrators, Professional being teachers, and Support including paraprofessionals, office staff, custodians, bus drivers aids, and food service workers.
Would moving to an earlier date affect our hiring competitiveness, and if so how?
FCCPS is a competitive school system. Our Human Resources department actively recruits the most qualified and talented staff, locally and nationally. We begin the recruiting and hiring process February. We offer early contract. If they can't afford to live in the city and we are misaligned this could impact choice.
Would it affect our students' standardized testing achievement, and if so how?
The more days of instruction we will have prior to the testing window indicates higher chances of achievement.
What issues would an earlier start date raise for the General Government, if any?
We have reached out to both the City Manager and the head of Recreation and Parks. Both there would be no impact.
How does the number of snow days factor into the calendar? Why don’t we “give” back unused snow days?
FCCPS starts with 180 days, which is our preferred way to count instructional time. However, the state also allows a minimum number of hours (990) to be counted. When FCCPS cancels days due to inclement weather or emergencies, we switch to “minimum hours”, which gives the illusion of having extra days built into the calendar. FCCPS follows the approved calendar until the last day of school, rather than adding or subtracting days at the end of the year. Making changes (even a single day) can be very disruptive to the family and school schedules.
Will teachers’ preferences be weighted more heavily than families’ preferences?
Not all teachers or families are in agreement on the best calendar. The Ad Hoc Calendar Committee is balanced to include school employees and parents. All opinions will be heard, with the hope that the committee can reach consensus on four reasonable calendars, which will be open to the whole community to weigh in on. The School Board will make the final decision. Everyone will be heard.
Will we still have an 11-week summer? If school starts earlier, will it also end earlier?
Because of all the variables in the whole calendar, we do not know when the last day will fall. It changes every year. The goal of the Ad Hoc Calendar Committee will be to produce four calendar options that conclude the year by June 15, 2021, or as close to it as possible but also weighing all of the factors that go into calendars.
Teacher Flex Days: Will they be usurped for an earlier start? If so, it sends the message that teachers weren’t using them before. How does this affect staff salaries?
Teacher Flex Days will not be affected. Flex Days are days that teachers use to go to conferences or prepare curriculum - outside of the 200-day contract. When teachers use them in the summer they are able to “trade them in” for designated days off at the start of the year.
If we decide to start pre-Labor Day, how will the start date be determined? Will it be a defined number of days before Labor Day or a specific date?
Since 2020 is unique, wondering how it will work in future years. The Ad Hoc Calendar Committee will develop four calendar options, two calendars with a different pre-Labor Day start date and two with a post-Labor Day start date (assuming September 8th as the first day). The community will be able to weigh in on their preference before the School Board adopts the calendar. Every year is unique, and we will continue to go through this process every year to develop the calendar
Once a decision is made, will we “live” by it? I.e. keep start after Labor Day, for example?
At present, the decision is being made for just one year. Every year has unique constraints, and the decision should be evaluated each year.
If it becomes a moving start date, can the Calendar Committee get to work earlier in the year, or create two-year calendars, so that all will know the calendar far in advance as some make plans for 12-18 months ahead?
The ad hoc committee determines its timeline based on the board’s timeline for approval of the school calendar. This could be an option to consider. Currently, the school board votes to approve the calendar in December.
What is the impact on the local business community?
Businesses that offer summer programs will need to pay attention to the start and end dates, as they always do. Some businesses that offer 11 weeks of camp may be affected if the weeks of summer are reduced. The business community will also have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed calendars.
What percentage of students are at risk for “summer slide” but are also not eligible for Summer Academy?
We have students with special needs and unique needs that receive targeted support. We also have students that demonstrate struggles with academic achievement throughout the school year. However, we do not have a process for predicting this outcome for students who are not eligible for the Summer Academy. There is research that supports shorter breaks between instruction eg. 3 semesters during the school year with a shorter summer break does mitigate the “summer slide”.
Why are we in competition with other schools - Virginia & elsewhere?
We want to provide our students with the best opportunities to succeed in school, and our staff the best place to work.
How is the the pre-Labor Day start working in Fairfax County?
After the initial adjustment period, the pre-Labor Day start has been a positive change in Fairfax County. Both FCPS administrators and FCCPS employees who live in Fairfax County and have children in Fairfax schools report that it is working well.
was a 1-week Pre-Labor Day Start Calendar considered?
The Ad Hoc Calendar Committee did consider an August 31st start but it was the first to be eliminated. There are multiple factors that went into the decision to eliminate this option. For example, there were issues getting quarters balanced (trying to get as close to 45 days per quarter) and having a teacher workday adjacent to the quarter for grading and planning. Additionally, the length of Winter Break would be impacted as well as the move of GMHS to the new building. This would have created multiple calendar options where the move date would not be ideal given the magnitude of the shift. Lastly, starting on August 31st would have meant three of the four calendar options would end after the School Board guidance of ending as close to June 15th as possible. The Ad Hoc Committee felt it important to share balanced options in an effort to be fair and transparent.
As the committee worked to develop draft calendars, both Pre-Labor Day groups developed calendars that included a three-day Thanksgiving break, a two-week winter break, and an extended weekend to encompass both Martin Luther King Day and Inauguration Day. These were identified core values of the committee and their respective constituents. So, to include all of these breaks and end by June 15th, the two pre-labor day groups each ended up starting school during the week of August 24th.
Why was Veterans Day (November 11th) not considered for a school holiday?
FCCPS has traditionally taken Columbus Day off and left Veteran’s Day in as a regular school day. There are a number of reasons for that. First, Veteran’s Day typically falls towards the end of the first quarter. In fact, in a couple of the options, Veteran’s Day is the Wednesday of the last week of the quarter. For continuity of instruction and final assignments, it doesn’t make instructional sense to take that day off. Additionally, because of the juggling of days in the calendar, adding another day off during the 180 instructional days would require us to shorten breaks or go later in the year. This was discussed by the calendar committee and in an effort to end the year as close to the June 15 date as possible it the holiday was not included. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, many of our staff like having school on Veteran’s Day because they get to celebrate the service of others. As mentioned earlier, many of our schools had lessons and media around service.
Questions from Community Outreach on 2020-2021 School Calendar - November 14, 2019
How will an early start before Labor Day impact families that have college visits and taking students to college?
A start prior to Labor Day aligns closer to many college schedules that have classes starting in August. For example, the University of Virginia’s calendar has the arrival of new students and start of fall orientation this year from Friday, August 23rd through Monday, August 26th.
Will FCCPS revisit the calendar each year for start dates?
Yes, adopting the calendar is an annual process.
Can a calendar decision be made earlier in the year? And, would FCCPS consider creating a 2-year calendar?
The timing of the calendar adoption has been consistent, and we can review the timing to determine if it can be done earlier in the year and/or for a multi-year period.
Which calendar option would retain teachers, a pre-labor day or post-labor day?
In the past, teachers have indicated they value alignment with the surrounding school system’s calendars. Currently, only Falls Church City, Arlington, and Alexandria have calendars that start after Labor Day, and Falls Church City and Arlington are considering both pre- and post-Labor Day calendars for next school year.
Is FCCPS going to defer to Fairfax County for snow calls?
No, FCCPS will continue to make our own snow calls. Talking with other school systems and governments is just one of the multiple factors that are taken into account when making snow calls.
Are there snow days noted on the calendar?
We do not currently have snow make-up dates noted on the draft calendars. With the hours of instructional time included each day, we have not needed to have makeup days in recent history.
Do any of the calendar options align with Fairfax County?
Fairfax County’s calendar for SY 2020-2021 is available at https://www.fcps.edu/sites/default/files/media/forms/2020_2021_standard_calendar.pdf The closest calendar option is Pre-Labor Day B.
Are the early-release Wednesdays noted on the calendar and will they remain the same?
Early releases for all school levels are not shown on the draft calendar grids, but they will be included on the list version of the adopted calendar. Elementary schools will continue to have early release Wednesdays (except when Monday is not a school day).
How do the calendar options, pre-labor day and post-labor day, impact the testing windows?
The testing windows are primarily determined by the Virginia Department of Education and IB. These dates have not been adjusted based on the school starting date. The number of instruction days prior to the testing windows is impacted by the school starting date.
After the survey, how will the School Board make their decision on choosing the school calendar?
The School Board will consider the feedback that they have received when making the calendar decision as they do each year. Additionally, they will take into account the community feedback provided at the Community Outreach meetings and at the Public Comment sections at Regular School Board meetings.
On election day and inauguration day, how will the teacher workdays beforehand affect teacher retention?
Historically FCCPS and many other school systems have had teacher workdays on election day and/or the day before election day. Inauguration day has typically been a non-work day for school systems and local government employees. In the calendar options, some do include inauguration as a holiday. If Inauguration Day becomes a teacher workday, FCCPS will work with employee groups to determine the best method of delivery and work processes for that day.
Will there be an opportunity to see how the teachers vote on the calendar?
The data from the calendar survey will be presented to the School Board on December 10 and will also be posted on our website after it’s presented to the School Board. The data can be disaggregated to show how our teachers voted.
Can we survey the teachers separately?
The teachers are not being surveyed separately, but we did ask respondents to include if they work for FCCPS and live in the City or if they work for FCCPS and live outside of the city.
From the survey, if one calendar is the most popular, but two other calendars with the same start date together receive more votes, how would you deal with that situation?
The final approval of the calendar will be up to the School Board and those data will be shared.
Understanding the new legislation to allow for an early start before Labor Day, how will this impact students who have summer work schedules and how will it impact the athletic schedules?
High school athletics starts at the same time each year regardless of the school start date. (see the response to question #19). If we start school earlier next year, there will be fewer days in the summer this year, but the school year will remain the same number of days.
Why is the VHSL relevant to the school calendar?
The beginning date for practice for fall season high school sports is determined by the Virginia High School League who sets the date for all high schools in Virginia. For next year, fall sports may start practicing on July 30th.
Will the survey have a comment section?
The survey does not have a section for comments. There have been opportunities for public comment at School Board meetings and two community calendar meetings. It does include a link to the email address where we have been collecting comments since the beginning: firstname.lastname@example.org
How is the survey going out to the community?
The survey was promoted in morning announcements, in emails to employees and parents, in Schoology for students, on our website, and through social media.