The Fairfax County school board did not actually vote to allow Monday early dismissals

How did the Fairfax County school board  approve early dismissals on Mondays? There was no motion to approve this major policy change, it was simply reported as a consensus of the board. Here are two  excerpts of the minutes of the school board meeting held February 25, 1971:

Summary of Actions Taken

Length of School Day. It was the consensus of the Board that the Superintendent and staff could assist schools in moving to a modified schedule where desired (no motion by the Board). [page 1]

——————

Mr.   Davis [Superintendent S. John “Jack” Davis] made some introductory remarks to the report on the modified elementary school day, indicating that several elementary schools that have extended their day are closing one-half day early per week. He stated he had not realized before the extent to which this adds to the clerical and administrative burden of these staffs, and expressed appreciation to the principals for the way in which they were handling this problem. Mr. Harold Ford, Area IV Superintendent, presented the details of the report regarding the elementary school day, indicating it was desirable from the standpoint of bringing about the program going on in the elementary schools. He reported one elementary school in Area IV switched to the modified school day during the second semester of the prior school year. By means of visual aid supplies, Mr. Ford showed the basic schedule for the elementary school and the modified school day. The present regular elementary school schedule contains 30 hours and 50 minutes per week, while the modified schedule calls for 31 hours per week. The modified schedule runes from 8:30 a.m., to 3:00 p.m., except one day per week from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mrs. Mary Mr. Musick, Principal of Kings Park Elementary School, was also present together with Mrs. Rita Gillespie, a teacher at the Laurel Ridge Elementary School. Mrs. Gillespie explained the application of individualized instruction under this modified school day and stated that it requires a large block of uninterrupted planning time for the faculty in thinking about the individual child and the diagnosis of his total needs, and the faculty planning together to meet those needs. In this way, they build viable relationships and realize the goal of individualized learning for the unique problems of each child. Mrs. Music also advised that their school used a plan of early closings on the modified schedule so that groups of teachers could plan together in carrying out a program for a group of children assigned to them. The faculty thus needs a large block of time for this cooperative planning and discussion. She stated this work has resulted in better diagnosis of the individual child’s needs, better planning, and better teaching. Also, there are more choices for groups of different skills. Mrs. Musick described how teachers evaluate pupils about the movement of children throughout the building, and indicated that multiage groupings are easier to accomplish. The teachers know the pupils better and have fewer discipline problems. The teachers have a better understanding of the child and do a better job in the total instructional program. She felt the most important advantages were that the children seem to be happier in their educational experience, and there was better teacher morale.      On questions from the Board, Mrs. Musick felt it did not make any difference in the efficiency of whether the planning time for the faculty was on Mondays or Fridays, but they held their inservice planning conferences on Mondays following the precedent of half-day closings for inservice training. On a question from Mrs. [Lenore] Plissner relative to the large number of working mothers, Mrs. Musick stated they had little difficulty in releasing the children early from school, but that if there were hardship cases where neither parents were home, arrangements could be made to keep these children at school for the full day indicating there were 12 of these cases last year and only 3 cases this year. She felt Mrs. Plissner’s suggestion of having children walk home to lunch might create some problem because of the length of time it took for some children to walk to and from school. Mr. Davis felt the key to the success of this program in Mrs. Musick’s school had been the total involvement of the community in the planning period. Mr. Ford said that there was no problem particularly in keeping children at school, and sighted  [sic] the case in one elementary school in Area IV which had turned down the modified day because of transportation problems. Mr. Davis indicated that this modified elementary school day procedure was not a violation of any Board policy…. (pp 5-6)

There were six school board members attending this special meeting: Mrs. Mary Anne Lecos, Mr. William R. Perlik, Mrs. Lenore Plissner, Mr. William B. Wrench, Dr. Rufus W. Wright, and Mr. John F. Pearson. The meeting was called to order at 8:07 p.m. and adjourned at 12:25 a.m.

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4 Comments on “The Fairfax County school board did not actually vote to allow Monday early dismissals”

  1. pommefrites says:

    I know that elementary teachers need planning time; however, my understanding is that the Monday afternoons are taken over by “busy work” meetings that do not allow teachers to do any cooperative planning. FCPS needs to look at best practices and provide an alternative for teacher planning time that will also ensure that the state-mandated minimum of weekly school hours for our elementary students. I

  2. slpfairfax says:

    Really interesting. It sounds as if they are describing PLC. Also interesting that schools had 30 hours and 50 minutes of school, but the modified schedule called for 31 hours. 8:30-3:00 … 1971.

    • It would be interesting to go back through the records to see when the time of 30 hours and 50 minutes per week was set. Anyway, this year we have the exact amount of time that was provided in 1971 and earlier years: 30 hours and 50 minutes. Actually, the students even lost additional time over the years, the current amount was not restored until 2007. In 2006 and earlier, most elementary schools had 30 hours and 30 minutes per week, some even less.
      When the school board lengthened the school day for middle and high schools in 1989, it promised to give more time to the elementary school students the following year. That didn’t happen.


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