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Why a Longer Winter Break is a Nonstarter in Prince William Schools

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Prince William County school officials mulled over an idea of extending winter break this year. They say the idea won’t work.

Here’s more in a press release:

PrinceWilliamCounty school officials mulled over an idea of extending winter break this year. They say the idea won’t work.

Here’s more in a press release:

The pilot elimination of the designated “semester exam” days for high school students, has led some to inquire about the possibility of cutting two days out of the 2013-14 school calendar (adding to the winter break) to “make up” the half-days previously scheduled in connection with the testing.

With regrets to those seeking extra days off, the idea will not work. The primary reason is that the elimination of the half-days for exams in no way changed the carefully-crafted school calendar—the half days for exams were already counted as required school days. PWCS must retain the calendar, as originally designed and announced in 2012, to meet necessary objectives. The 2014-15 calendar may provide for a longer winter break.

Calendar Facts:  

The annual school calendar is developed and announced well in advance to allow students, families and teachers to plan their schedules accordingly.

The calendar is developed to meet the strict requirement of the Virginia Code concerning the required number of days, and the requirement that schools must start after Labor Day; it provides for 182 instructional days for elementary students and 183 instructional days for middle and high school students.

Additional days are built in to allow for weather-related closings, and they may be needed at any time within the school year. Beyond these weather reserve days, there is little room for flexibility.

All decisions about student holidays and teacher workdays require tradeoffs to fit within the parameters. Consequently discussions about Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day, the length of Winter and Spring Breaks, etc. are made in consultation with a representative Calendar Committee of  parents, teachers, principals, and  employee association representatives.

Once approved by the Calendar Committee, the calendar is presented to and approved by the Superintendent’s Staff and then by the School Board. This process was completed for the 2013-14 calendar in December, 2012.

The PWCS calendar provides for the same number of school days as do those of neighboring jurisdictions. For example, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) do have a longer winter break, but FCPS has students in school until June 20, 2014; Prince William County students finish on June 17.

Extending next school year’s winter break by up to two weeks, by including a calendar proposal that has the two week vacation time built already built into it,  is an idea that will be presented at an upcoming School Board meeting on Dec. 4.

Students must be in school a total of 180 days to fulfill the state requirement of a full school year.

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  • Davin Peterson

    Prince William County Schools is one of the few school systems in Northern VA that doesn’t close on Columbus Day and it has been like that for many years.

    However, some school systems & colleges may swap between Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day every year.

  • Read_the_Regs

    This argument is flawed and if this paper is worth its salt it will call the county on this.
    In the past few years we have missed many days, 7 to 10 and we have never had to make the days up. Why?…. Because PWCS more than fulfills the HOURS not the days of instructional time. VADOE requires 990 hours and PWCS students attend for about 1170 hours.
    Also the VADOE policy is not strict, there are several options for fulfilling days and or hours. And it allows us to teach to hours not days because of weather conditions etc.
    Here is the policy:
    8 VAC 20-520-30. Completion of teaching hours
    C. Nothing in these regulations shall preclude a school division from making up missed teaching days by providing students with teaching hours equivalent to such missed teaching days.

    So if PWCS lets students out January 3 and 4 then gets a week of snow, everything will be fine. PWCS will still fulfill the hour requirement.

    Finally the reason students are not getting the 3rd and the 4th off is because someone made a mistake when planning the calendar. Then the calendar was approved. If PWCS gave students the 3rd and 4th off it would require the Superintendent to admit a mistake was made or that the new schedule is better than what he submitted to the board.

    Sadly what is lost is family time and what he get is low quality school days that will have low attendance. Lets be realistic coming back on a Thursday means inattentive students in school on days when teachers show videos are hand out busy work.

    • Push Back

      I knew we went way more than anyone else.

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