ACPS Approves 2009-2010 Calendar

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Mark your calendars, kids. Youll be back in school on September 8.

Teachers, your contracts have been rearranged and extended slightly, meaning youll be getting paid for an additional two days of service, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In passing the proposed academic calendar for the 2009-2010 school year on April 2, the Alexandria City School Board agreed to that much and a little more, resolving to have the schools system of half-days reviewed and possibly revised by this time next year.

With the state of Virginia stipulating that schools begin the year after Labor Day, officials planning the academic calendar for the upcoming school year shuffled certain teacher work days to the beginning of the school year, allowing the last quarter to wrap up on June 22 or June 23, should inclement weather force ACPS to utilize three snow days.

The new calendar includes 183 school days for students, make-up days included, and 194 contracted days for teachers, up from 192 a year ago, according to a memo.

While there was little dissension or discussion about the nuts and bolts of the proposed 2009-2010 calendar prior to the vote, the board members engaged senior school staff over the use of half-days and the possibility of revising the corresponding policy to increase instruction time for students and development time for teachers.

Many Fairfax and Arlington schools have systems, ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman said, in which half-days are spread throughout the year at more regular, frequent intervals than Alexandrias schools. In Fairfax, the schools let out early every other Friday in an effort to provide additional planning time for teachers.

Board member Marc Williams asked senior staff at the April 2 meeting if teachers would benefit from having half-days throughout the year like Fairfax, rather than being more or less lumped together at different points during the year.

Deputy Superintendent Cathy David provided a two-sided response, as both a parent and a teacher familiar with both the Fairfax and Alexandria school systems.

As a parent raising children in Fairfax County, the teacher side of me was so envious that the teachers in Fairfax County had this weekly time to collaborate and to plan and meet with parents, David said. The parent side of me saw what a pain it was to arrange childcare for my children that was different one day a week, but we did it and I would always promote it because it is such a valuable development time for teachers.

Sherman, too, cited the ways in which more frequent, regular half-days could be a potential burden for students and families, the possibility that more kids would going home unsupervised and the additional childcare costs that would be incurred by a policy change.

Whichever path the schools ultimately decide to take with half-day scheduling in future calendars, the persistent interest in trying to do the best job possible with allocating student and teacher time seems to warrant further review.

Maybe we need to look at how we can disperse our time just a little bit differently to get everything in [on time] and make sure that our students are getting quality instructional time, board member Blanche Maness said. Sometimes change is good and perhaps it is time we look at [restructuring the use of half-days].

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