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Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Controversy Over the New Calendar

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New Calendar Proposals for the 2021-2022 School Year Prompt Start-Date Disagreements

Abigail St. Jean and Maddie Kysilko

2020 brings not only a new yearly calendar, but also a new highly contested ACPS academic calendar. Three versions of proposed academic calendars for the 2021-2022 school year are in circulation. The most disputed aspect of these calendars is their start: should they start before or after Labor Day?

Option 1 follows our current calendar year, with school starting on September 7, the day after Labor Day, and getting out June 22. Option 2 would start August 26 and get out June 15. Option 3 would start August 24 and get out June 10.

A poll sent to ACPS families demonstrated most students prefer to start after Labor Day. 

ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings recommends the School Board approve a post-Labor Day start for next year, while continuing to investigate a pre-Labor Day start for the following school year.

This year, the calendar process is unique. Usually when creating a new calendar, the committee looks one year ahead. Because it is looking to make a dramatic change, when the school board votes in February it will decide on the 2020-2021 calendar and 2021-2022 school year. 

One concern with starting early is that it will cut into summer break. “Like several people in this area, my job follows the congressional schedule,” said an ACPS parent. “The month of August is the one time of the year I can spend quality time with my children without having to keep checking into work.”

“I like the start of the year before Labor Day [because it] aligns with other school districts and ends school as early as possible,” said another ACPS parent.

A main argument for starting early is to make T.C. more competitive academically. AP exams take place in early- to mid-May. ACPS starts later into the year, so teachers have to cram the same amount of content into a shorter period of time. Starting early will also allow students and teachers to have more time to prepare for the SOLs, which students take in late May and early June.

A letter to the school board urging an earlier start to the school year was signed by 25 AP teachers. “Over 900 ACPS students took an AP exam last year in at least one of the 33 AP courses offered,” the letter read. “A large percentage of our students would directly benefit from the earlier start date … Successfully passing AP exams can earn students college credit, allow them to bypass introductory classes in college, and potentially save them thousands of dollars.” 

“I like the start of the year before Labor Day [because it would] align with other school districts and end school as early as possible. The kids are done mentally after Memorial Day, so let’s minimize the pain for everyone,” said another ACPS parent.

Currently, ACPS determines how long students stay in school based on the number of student days. They are considering transitioning to counting the number of student hours in school instead which would lead to 10 fewer days in the 2021-2022 school year (not factoring in teacher work days). Most public schools in Northern Virginia have already transitioned to this.

According to Courtney Horwat, a  teacher at T.C. and member of the School Board’s Calendar Committee, there are issues with transitioning from counting school days to hours. Although switching to hours would reduce the number of days, the issue is that teacher contracts have already been set up for the 2021 year. This means that ACPS cannot change the number of teacher days and summer would still come mid-June.

“My hope is that they decide to start us early. It is a difficult mindset to start before Labor Day because Alexandria has done it for so long,” said Horwat. “Aligning with other districts in the state would be beneficial, but it’s Alexandria–you never know what is going to happen.”

The calendar committee will make its decisions based on community, student, and staff input to an ACPS survey. Voting is still open and the survey can be found on the ACPS website.

The calendar committee will make its decisions based on community, student, and staff input to an ACPS survey. Voting is still open. To respond to the survey, go to https://acpsweb.wufoo.com/forms/r6a8tjx1isi3eq/.

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Controversy Over the New Calendar