Alexandria City Public Schools
Superintendent's Blog

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

The decision to close schools or have a delayed opening is complicated by the fact that it must be made in the pre-dawn hours, well before buses will actually be on the road.  After consulting with our deputy superintendent for planning and operations, our director of transportation (who drives the roads in the middle of the night), our director of facilities (who monitors our school parking lots and walkways), several City officials and people from surrounding jurisdictions, I make the best decision I can with the information available at the time.  Student safety, of course, is the number one priority.

In addition to roads and parking lots, we must consider whether sidewalks and bus stops are clear enough to avoid having students walk in the streets.  We must also look at the forecast and estimate whether conditions will improve or deteriorate during the day.  Finally, we look at roads leading into the City from outside Alexandria, because most of our bus drivers, building engineers and teachers live outside the city limits.  These factors are at the core of our decision-making process (and I would never jeapordize student safety) but in the back of my mind I must also consider how many parents have difficulty finding child care when schools are closed and how many of our students (over 54 percent) depend on school breakfasts and lunches for their meals.

The decision to close schools is complicated, and rarely pleases everybody.  Sometimes, when the sun comes up and the temperature rises, I wish I had made a different decision, but each storm is unique and forecasts are often inaccurate.  I must base my decision on the facts available the day before, or at 4 a.m., and I must always err on the side of caution.

We have three snow make-up days built into the Alexandria City Public Schools calendar.  This past Friday was our fourth snow day and I suspect we’ll have several more before spring.  The School Board members and I will consider several options for making up the additional days.  One thing I can say for sure is that Monday, Feb. 15, WILL NOT be used as a snow make-up day.  I know that is a big concern, so I want to put your minds at ease.  We will gather information from the Virginia Department of Education and work with our Department of Human Resources to determine our best options.  I hope to have answers quickly.  I’m mindful of the fact that when plans need to be changed, you need to know as soon as possible.

I’m sure the kids are enjoying this winter.  Perhaps we should ask them to stop wearing their pajamas backwards and flushing ice cubes down the toilet.  Some of you may not be so happy with all of this snow, but rather than feeling frustrated and annoyed with the decisions that are made regarding school closures and delayed openings, I ask that you turn your frustrations toward Mother Nature, and understand that we care deeply about your children and want most of all for them to be safe.

100 Responses to “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”

  1. Gaby says:

    I believe this is not the student’s fault and we should not have to make up the days during the summer, right now we cant even enjoy the time since we are just stuck at home.
    On the other hand i do take AP and i know it is going to be hard to finish the material since we lost so much time. I guess the best way to make up the time is by adding 30mins to each day beforeeee the EXAM or postpone it.(dont think its possible)

    Well just wanted to give a student’s point of view.

    GAby

  2. Lynn says:

    From Dr. Sherman: “After researching and discussing several options with my senior staff, I will recommend to Board members that we restore the lost instructional time by adding significant time to each school day, and that we NOT use holidays, take days away from spring break, or add days to the end of the school year.”

    Our family actually supports this idea – it makes sense. But there is one thing we must consider when adding time on to the school day: after-school classes (sports, music, language, art, etc.) that have been purchased in advance. I know we must do what’s best for the group (which means no situation will be perfect for everyone), but we will lose $300+ this semester if my daughter has to stay one hour or longer five days a week. I’ve noticed several people have mentioned “30 minutes” each day, but I’m not sure that qualifies as “significant time.” If we must add time on to each school day, please let parents know as soon as possible, so those with extracurricular activities can try to make alternative arrangements as quickly as possible. Thank you!

  3. Sharon Luther says:

    I have never understood the last 4 days of school in ACPS all being “early release days”…under the current schedule, very little seems to get accomplished in school in these last 4 days (except for kids parties and socializing).
    For this year, I would suggest you change these days to full instructional days (to help with snow makeup); in the future, it seems like these 4 early release days should either be real (full day) school days, or they should simply be eliminated, since our schools get out so late in June compared with all other jurisdictions.
    (PS – I also think school should be in session on Monday, Feb 15th…but at the same time, I understand it’s probably impractical to spring this on staff who may have holiday plans).
    Thanks

  4. Lisa Comras says:

    I would like to write once again. I think that the best solution (which would solve both issues) is to have the kids stay one extra hour each day (but ONLY the SOL classes). Adding 15 minutes at the end of the day does nothing. Giving the kids the extra exposure to their core subjects benefits the kids…and the school’s beloved SOL testing.
    As I have said before, the structure of the school day is pointless. Per all the teachers I have spoken to, noone benefits from 8 classes @ 45 minutes. By the time the kids get in their class, get in their seats and order is called by the teacher, there is maybe 30 minutes to teach. I was part of the initial study for block days. Mon, Wed, Fri we went to periods 1,3,5,7 and then on Tues, Thurs to periods 2,4,6,8. Each class was 1.5 hours. Teachers didn’t have to rush thru the material and they weren’t worried about SOL’s. They graded properly, therefore, grades and grade advancement were the ratings for which they were held to. What ever happened to teaching the kids to prepare them academically and not a rating a school/teachers receive as the benchmark?
    Again, to make up the days, add an hour each day to the SOL so all get the benefit the kids miss each day with a hurried “normal” day.

  5. Leesa Margarella says:

    I am surprised that so many people are ready to add more time to an already long day for our children. My kindergartner is exhausted by the end of the day and adding “significant” time to an already long day for elementary aged children is cruel. Education is not about quantity of time in school, it is about quality of time in school.

  6. Jeffrey Burns says:

    Dr. Sherman-

    Each of us as ACPS employees has our own desires for calendar changes for the remainder of the school year. Adding days to the end of the school year would be a great hinderance to this process for me personally because I am getting married July 2nd. Also, taking days away from spring break would also be a hinderance to staff members who are not originally from the DC metro area and are planning to visit home. The most logical solution would be to add a few minutes to each school day for the rest of the school year. I hope we can find a way, specifically at TC Williams, to add minutes to the start of the school day and keep the end of the day at 3:15, which is already a late school day.

  7. PMoran says:

    As we prepare to dug out from the big storm, digging out of our instructional loss appears more difficult. In light of your comments tonight (extending June 17 to a full day), how will that affect TC’s graduation at 1:30pm on the 17th?

  8. Patty says:

    According to the letter Dr. Sherman sent out today, he is leaning toward recommending adding “significant” time to each school day. How much time are we talking? An hour? More? Less? I don’t know about the older kids, but I can’t see that of being much value for the younger ones, and in fact I see a significant downside in terms of restlessness and potential resulting behavioral issues. The regular school day is already quite long enough to expect our youngest students to be inside, sitting in a chair, and paying attention. I think it would be so much better for them to add additional days either from spring break or at the end of the year.

    I know it’s difficult to please all interests, but please don’t forget about the little ones as you accommodate the SOL and AP issues of older students. Perhaps a compromise between the two? Add on fewer extra days and extend the remaining days only slightly rather than “significantly”?

  9. Kristine Eelkema says:

    Thank you for your careful consideration of how to make up all these snow days! I appreciate your job has many challenges and people to please. I just wanted to add that we are in complete support of your decision to make-up the school days by extending the current school days, rather then tack on additional days at the end of the year, holidays, etc.

    Appreciate all the work that is done behind the scenes!!

  10. Karen says:

    Given that the children were out 2 days last week and all this week, I definintely think they should go on Monday, the 15th, even though it is a scheduled holiday. It seems like an easy make-up day. As enjoyable as it’s been with my children this week, it’s been hard on me as a working mother, given that my office has been open all week. I need to work President’s Day as I’m sure many others do.

    I think opting for full school days for make-up is less confusing and more effective than adding minimal time to the end of the day. I agree with the comment above, that most children, especially the younger ones work hard all day to sit still and pay attention; an additional 15 or 30 minutes will be hard. I don’t thinkt that the extra time here and there will add much value from an instructional point; it will not replace lost subject/teaching time.

  11. Eve Anderson says:

    We appreciate the efforts of the entire ACPS team during this unusual event. We have been following the comments and know the debate about making up lost time will be heated. The rumors are swirling and we wanted to pose a few questions: Is it really possible for children to focus during such a long day (I am thinking of the younger students)? ; Can we expect our staff to continue to be energetic during longer days at weeks on end (I am guessing your staff is in need of some rest right now)? ; How will longer days impact all the extra-curricular activities of the students?

    I wonder if extending the school year by a few more days (full day June 23 and finishing out the week) would be a reasonable solution?

  12. Stephanie Sample says:

    Dr. Sherman.

    I know we’ve just experienced a historic snowstorm and we must make up valuable school hours. However, with a kindergartener at MVCS I am very, very concerned with extending the day. It is not unusual for my daughter to melt down at 2:35 when school gets out – it is already a very long day for the little kids. In addition, my daughter eats lunch from 10:53-11:23!

    I would much, much rather lose spring break or intersession at MVCS.

    If the day is extended please consider only lengthening a couple of days a week, offering a healthy snack to the kids in the afternoon, and providing another recess.

  13. Denise Meringolo says:

    Superintendent Sherman:
    I would support adding time to the school day.
    I would also support making June 17 AND 18 (thursday and friday) full days instead of half days).
    I’m not generally a big fan of the end of the year half days in any case, and since we’re now ending on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, I don’t see why the half days are in both weeks anyway.

    Just my two cents.

  14. Anne Smith says:

    I believe the best solution is to use Spring Break or part of Intersession for the makeup days. I do not agree adding time at the end of the school day is optimal. Kids are tired by the end of the day and to add another hour to their already long day may be too much.

  15. Julia Ackley says:

    If a longer school day is in store, we really need to consider a second recess and a snack for elementary students. We can’t expect young students to stay focused for such a long day without giving them some free time and nourishment.

  16. Dawn Bauman says:

    Dr. Sherman,

    Our families are fortunate to have your strong leadership and thoughtfulness during these unprecedented circumstances.

    One of the difficulties of the circumstances is, no doubt, finding a solution that works for children ages 5-19. As you continue to prepare your plan for the school board, I encourage you to consider the younger children (five year olds) who already have a long day at school. The full day kindergarten curriculum is a blessing, especially considering the economic impact on the district; however, a full day that is 30 minutes longer may be a very long day for these little guys and girls.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and strategic approach.

  17. S. J. Neely says:

    I thought the students went to school for 184 days in Alexandria. A few years back, time was added to the end of the school day, and seven years ago, the SOL Writing test was moved back one week because of too much snow. Adding time to the end of the day would help the elementary students who could focus on the core areas that are tested for the SOL, the IE time could be extended each day. Adding time at the end of the year is a waste of time. The students are zoned out after the SOL tests.

  18. Candace says:

    …I find the discussion of extending the school day concerning and off the mark for our youngest students.

    Fifteen minutes might be OK, but it would take 26 days (1.25 months) to make up each lost day that way. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when we’re talking about extending the day we’re actually talking about adding much more time to the end of each day, not 10 or 15 minutes. We’re talking 45 minutes or more. That’s the only way to make up this many days before the end of the year without using vacation or holidays.

    I have a kinder who is exhausted by the end of a 6.5 hour day. He isn’t the only one; they all are. Until recently kindergarten was only a half-day; in many parts of this country that is still the norm. Adding time to an already extended day for a 5yr old is not in their best interest. These kids are hungry (they eat at 10:30am; by 2:40pm when they are excused they are starving) and they are tired of sitting. Expecting hungry, tired, restless 5 year olds to be in school for another hour? For a total of 7.5 hours a day? That kind of plan does not have their best interest in mind.

    Or you can look at it this way: the school provides free breakfasts to kids at 7:30am–and then lunch at 10:30am–so they can focus in school and not be distracted by their hunger. Yet we’d be expecting them to go without food for 5 hours–inflicting hunger on them.

    Please, before considering making the school day longer for the little kids, really look at the harm…

  19. Beth says:

    Dr. Sherman,

    I appreciate your thoughtfulness as you struggle with this daunting issue. I can certainly support the extra time each day. However, I agree with previous posters that this time be used effectively. Adding mere minutes to each class will not give us the bang for our buck. I would suggest that we instead spread that time over our core subjects maybe mondays the extra time goes to math, tuesdays to language arts, etc. It seems to me this may be easier for the teachers to prepare lessons to work within that framework as well.

    Thanks.

  20. Kyrah Drasheff says:

    I teach first grade. Our children are constantly rushed through the day. This is not a good thing. When I moved here I was was used to a school day that went from 8:00 to 3:00. Here we go to school from 8:00 to 2:30. (Of course we actually end up around 2:10 because it’s takes time to give out homework and get packed up!)

    I would welcome an extra half hour after school and could use those moments in creative ways to teach. As it is now, I barely have time to read a story to my children during the day! I feel that adding extra time to each day would benefit the kids in the best way.

  21. Julie says:

    I’m concerned about adding time to the day. We are at MVCS.

    It seems that since we are on a different calendar anyway, we should be able to use that to our advantage and take away one of the spring intercession weeks. Maybe I’m off base, but it just seems this would be the best option academically.

    Or, as it seems from some of the others, even taking the spring break away would be better.

    For the option of taking away a week at spring intercession, it may not be the “easy” way since it’s not the same for all schools, but a commitment was made for us to have a different calendar anyways, so we should be able to have a different solution– that is academically the best for the children. This way they are truly making up the lost days and they can stay on the same schedule during the day.

    If it does work out that we add time to each day, I hope that all concerns and considerations are addressed; when/where that time needs to go for the learning, the very important get outside time and move around time, and in addition consideration definitely needs to be given to the hunger. Eating at 10:53, a snack should be available in the afternoon. I know my son is starving when we pick him up.

    Thanks

  22. A Castro says:

    I would like to comment on lengthening each school day for the next few months. I am against this concept, especially for elementary schools. The days are long enough for the younger children already. In addition to the multiple afterschool activities that start directly at the end of the current day. There are the sports and practices that will be starting next month. If the children have enough days to reach the requirement then let it go or take away spring break. 2 days this week were 1/2 days so not much was missed instructionally anyway. Let’s not make this decision harder than it has to be.

  23. Eric says:

    I am a student at TC trying to offer a different point of view. The character limit is forcing me to break this into 2 parts: the problems, and a solution. I hope they post both together…
    Adding days to the end of the year wouldn’t work because students wouldn’t be focused during this time, and other students will likely skip school.
    Taking away holidays to make up these days would be unfair to families who have already made plans.
    Adding time to the beginning of each school day would be met with EXTREME disagreement from older students. Young students may not feel as tired in the mornings, but most older students already show up to school tired.
    Adding time onto the end of the days would interfere with sports. Currently, our school days end later than most other schools in the Patriot District. Making school end later would make it more difficult to fit in practices before dark, as well as making it tougher to schedule competitions without missing school time.
    Adding time onto the end of the day would also interfere with student-held jobs. Although school does come first, is it really fair to change the schedule during the year, costing a student pay that they had planned to recieve, especially during this economy?
    Adding time onto the end of the day also shortens the time that students have to do their homework and other activities. This would decrease family time, as well as time to do homework and other school-related activities (ie, sports, clubs, …).

  24. Eric says:

    This is a continuation of my previous post. Like I said earlier, I am a student at TC, and I am just trying to offer a different point of view. My previous post discussed the problems faced by solutions discussed in posts by other people. This post will discuss my proposed solution.
    As Dr. Sherman said in his message about make-up days (www.acps.k12.va.us/news2010/nr2010021001.php), “The State requires school divisions to provide 990 hours of instructional time. In ACPS, we exceed that amount during our regular school year…”. I suggest that instead of making up all of the missed days, we have school on the set-aside make up days, and then only make up enough more days to meet the requirements. This way, the problems caused by making up these days will be minimized.
    I know that some might be instantly against my idea to have less school because I am a student, and typically, they would be correct as most students do wish for a shorter school year. However, these extra school days are not needed; the end of the school year, aside from final exams, is spent doing few productive activities, with both students AND teachers longing summer break.
    Instead of making up all of the snow days, the school board should choose to make up only enough to meet legal requirements, and should do away with the rest. This may seem like it would harm education, but these days would be added onto the end of the year, when not much work(aside from finals) gets done.

    Respectfully,
    E…

  25. Patty Reilly says:

    Dr. Sherman:

    Thank you for leadership. I applaud your efforts and will work cooperatively to ensure our children have the best possible outcome out of an other than optimial situation. As a child of a principal, I vividly remember my Dad deciding whether or not to open or close schools. He took comfort in the fact that there were always plenty of folks to inform him when he made the “wrong” decision. As an aside, he very much enjoyed snowy days in his retirement.

  26. Bill Mambert says:

    I have children at both MacArthur and GW and am reading your letter about significantly extending the school day to make up snow days. It seems to me there are basically two ways to go. First, to find a solution that somehow maintains current school hours, that might affect a relatively limited number of days–like one or two days over Spring break, a planned teacher work day, planned holiday, etc. The second way, which you seem already decided about, significantly affects a large number of days by fundamentally altering school hours for months, which in turn affects a tremendous amount of scheduled after school activities. One of my daughters, for example, is a competitive gymnast and we’re rushed to get her to practice a several days each week when school is dismissed at 3:15.To boot, fees have been paid, car pool arrangements with parents with kids from other jurisdictions have been made, etc. These will all be affected. I’m sure there are untold examples of other families that will be hard pressed to maintain there long planned current after school plans and logistics if you alter school hours. And then there’s the entire other discussion about pressing the kids for the extra energy, focus, and nutritional requirements (my kids need an afternoon snack) that will be required of them if school hours are expanded. I happened to be in the halls of GW recently during a late afternoon class change. The shameful frenzy and out of control hysteria of both students and…

  27. Bill Mambert says:

    (this is a continuation of my post of 4:33 p.m today)…….and teachers will most certainly not be helped by frazzling all involved even further with extended hours.

    I strongly urge that you find a solution that works within the structure of current school hours. It may seem difficult to give up what are now currently planned as non instructional days, be they holiday days, Spring break days, or teacher work days. But the impact of doing this is limited to what are essentially a handful of days, as opposed to impacting months worth of days if you change daily school hours from March through sometime in June.

    I know I might as well be writing all of this in a snow drift for all of the impact it will have on any final decision. But I would be interested to hear your take on the dichotomy I have mentioned here. That is, the impact of a plan that affects scheduling for months, or one that can be absorbed with scheduling over a limited number of days. It may be difficult either way. Why do you feel your way to be the best way?

  28. Olga anchez says:

    Dr. Sherman,
    Reading your letter about the makeup days has really caught my attention. You are not counting the two snow days that the children missed on December 2009 (Dec. 21 and 22nd.)Adding all the days missed so far is a total of: 8 days including tomorrow Friday the 12.
    The school board should really make a quick decision, that way us parents and teachers can also start planning ahead too. I’m absolutely sure we would prefer for our kids to recover the time lost.
    One thing I do not want to see, is our kids and teachers struggling to make up the time. I’ve seen fist hand how teachers over flow our kids with homework to make up the lost time. “Let not this be an excuse for mediocre teaching”.

  29. Erin says:

    Dr. Sherman,
    I just read the email that you are going to make the staff return to work on June 24 for our final work-day. I was under the assumption that the 23 would be the last day for everyone due to the make-up day. There is not an option on the current calendar to make the staff return to work on the 24 for a teacher make-up day. I have already made vacation plans.
    I think adding time to our day would be the best option.

  30. Donna says:

    I concur with those who have mentioned the half days at the end of the school year. That schedule has always perplexed and I might even say annoyed me. I have never heard a rationale offered for it. I would definitely use those days to help alleviate the pressure on the ACPS schedule to make up time lost to snow days.
    Also, I must say that counting our days and hours in school as a way to measure that a good education is being provided is most unfortunate. As someone already stated, it has no direct connection with quality. However I do realize that this is a problem that originates in state capitols all over the country and is not owned by ACPS. Why not ask Richmond for a waiver of time lost in this most unprecedented Virginia winter?

  31. Elizabeth says:

    As a parent of younger children, I must agree that adding more minutes to the school day could stress them beyond the point of being able to sit still any longer.

    Also, I am wondering about a later school day, and what that will do to extra curricular activities, even those not through the school system, such as piano lesson or ballet class?

    If there’s an opinion poll, I’d rather see 3 days or so added to the school year as opposed to more minutes per day.

    Thanks so much for a great forum for our thoughts!

  32. Meghan says:

    Dr. Sherman,
    I just have one question. According to what I have heard you are opting out from asking the state to forgive the days missed. I have heard different stories about what actually has to happen in order for the days to be forgiven. What exactly is the protocol for that? If we met the requirements to have some forgiven I don’t understand why you would opt out of that. It seems to me that would relieve some of the stress. Also I was in high school when FCPS added time to the end of the school day to make up time and I’ll tell you first hand it didn’t help at all. Most of the students I knew left school at our old dismissal time anyway.
    Just my opinion. Thanks

  33. Elizabeth Davenport says:

    Dr. Sherman,
    If the extended days are put in place to make up the snow days, I think it’s imperative that the elementary students have an afternoon snack and an afternoon recess. I have a kinder at MVCS who is usually completely exhausted and hungry by the end of the day. At MVCS the kinders eat lunch at 10:50 am.
    Thanks for your consideration.

  34. Matthew Holland says:

    Since I teach math and enjoy working with numbers let me provide a few numbers which may help when considering this problem. We have had a total of 9 snow days. In Alexandria our students attend school for 183 days. Virginia law requires students of the Commonwealth to attend school for 180 days. If we follow the letter of the law we now have 3 days down. There are 3 snow make-up days built into the school calendar. Going to school on those days leaves us with 3 missed school days left to cover. Spring break is 5 days long. Bite the bullet and have students attend school for 3 (M,Tu,W) of the 5 spring break days. This may not be the most popular solution but this will prevent fiddling around with school hours and will address the dilemma over 3 days rather than the remainder of the school year.

  35. Mother of 6 year old says:

    Can you please clarify what is meant by “In ACPS, we exceed that amount (990) during our regular school year…” If ACPS already exceeds the required amount, then what is the exact number of hours that must be made up. In addition, to repeat other comments – K and 1st graders are EXHAUSTED, hungry and need a break after the current day. Is there a penalty to ACPS if the time isn’t made up for those grades? Finally, could a plan be to have a couple super long days as opposed to having many a bit longer days. Thank you.

  36. Heidi says:

    There are many concerns about younger students exhaustion at the end of the school day if “significant” time is added. What we should be focusing on is ALL students. By the end of the day, middle school students are tired. As are high school students! The last two classes of the day are the hardest to teach because the students are losing focus and are tired. Do I have a better solution? No. But I would ask that this is kept in mind when making instructional decisions for the remainder of the year.

  37. LWare says:

    Dr. Sherman,

    Venturing out in the neighborhood this morning to go to work. After seeing the side streets, it was a smart decision to close school for today and keep the holiday in place for Monday. But if you want schools open on Tuesday, SOMEONE HAS TO CLEAR THE STREETS. There is no place for the kids who catch the bus to even stand, let alone walk. I am on the corner of Longview, just off Duke St. The city has done a horrible job on the roads & no sidewalks are visible.

    This is an accident waiting to happen. The safety of the kids getting there goes hand in hand with them making up the class hours. Perhaps you & your staff should ride a few of the routes. Don’t go by the news coverage of how well the streets are clearing. I think you need to see this for yourself.

  38. Victoria Menjivar says:

    Dr. Sherman,
    As I keep reading all the comments posted, I have two questions are we concerned about making up the missed days or the lost of instruction that will help our students better prepared (completing and reviewing the material)for the SOLs? If the emphasis is on making up the missed days,I would suggest, urgently, to act and look into a state legislation to waive the missed days based on “a state emergency” or something similar. If we are concerned about better preparing our students for the SOLs, as a parent of two GW students,I would suggest looking into the PACE period to see if missed instruction for the classes included in the SOLs can be replaced there, teachers will need to work a schedule that includes these classes and all will have an entire period. It would be wise to hear from teachers and school administrators as they (and our students) will be most affected by whatever is decided and also know what it needs to be done before testing time. It might be necessary to have more than one approach as we are dealing with different school age groups, different after school activities, and needs and interests. I just do not want my children and their teachers to rush through the material more than usual before May. What about starting the school year early in the future to avoid this type of situation? If not missed days occurred, then we could start the summer break earlier, just a thought. I am “not” talking about a MSC/All Year Around School,to clarify.

  39. Donna says:

    Dr. Sherman, If it is decided that the instructional day is extended, please consider allowing snacks for the students. The lunch schedule for some is very early and a later dismissal would leave quite a few starving by the end of the day. This is especially difficult for the little ones. Thank you.

  40. Kristen says:

    Thanks for all of these thoughtful comments. As an elementary teacher, I can tell you that we need every minute we can get to teach our students the massive amounts of material they are required to learn each year. I understand that adding 30 minutes to the school day might be challenging for the little ones, but if they are given snacks and extra unstructured time, it would work.
    My biggest concern is when the extra 30 minutes would be added. It should be before the SOL tests are given, not after. An extra 30 minutes would be a huge advantage for teachers and students and might mean the difference between some students passing or failing. Time on task is the key. We’ve talked informally all year at my school about the need for a longer school day to get everything in, so let’s do what’s right for our students, not what’s easiest.

  41. ACPS Teacher says:

    As an ACPS teacher, I am frustrated by making up all of the “required” days. ACPS students and teachers are in school longer than the other local jurisdictions as it is. Fairfax County elementary schools have two teacher workdays for each of the first two quarters and most Fairfax County elementary schools have early dismissals every Monday. Many Arlington County schools have early release Wednesdays. One of the two Falls Church elementary schools has early release on Wednesdays, as well.

    Several years back, I taught in a local private school in which we added time (30 min) to each day to make up snow days. This did not add to quality instruction time at all. It was basically a waste of time as students and teachers were exhausted every day.

    I can also remember the year I student-taught in a Virginia public school when the extra snow days were waived. This really seems to be the best option.

    Quality of education does not equal quantity of education. If teachers maximize the current teaching time, student education should not suffer.

  42. Krys Filios says:

    First, I have no regrets that our schools were closed for this historic weather event. As to making up the time, as parent of 6 ACPS students at all levels from 1st – 12th, each will be affected differently by the various proposals so I can relate to most perspectives. With no obvious solution, I’d like to understand what our primary goal is in making up the time. If SOL performance is the objective, how will the make up time be focused on this? Adding to the end of the year clearly misses this, but I’m not sure how 30 extra minutes/day works at the TC level. If pure instructional time is the goal, replacing day for day seems more straight forward than day extension, regardless of when those days are. What about the ‘do nothing’ option? If the state forgives them, and we don’t make them up, what is the anticipated impact on our student body? Will fewer graduate/be promoted? Lower college attendance/higher drop out rates? Lower test scores? Is the impact of the missed time, perhaps negligible?
    With a clear objective, the ability of each proposal to meet it should be assessed against all the cons of implementing it. I’d like to see evidence that the benefits of our solution outweigh the cons for the majority of the students. Personally, I am certain that the lost time will have no impact on my students and it won’t matter if it is made up. But show me the benefits to the majority and I will happily support. P.S. VHS AP classes were not suspended for snow!

  43. Jeff says:

    First, thanks for the chance to comment.

    However, I do not favor extending the school day. My teen is in honors classes and sports and already is often finishing homework at 11 p.m. I am very concerned about extending that already long day.

    All the options have drawbacks. Of those available for the most recent snow days, I would take 2 or 2.5 days from spring break and forget the rest, since you note that it is not required to make up all the time. I am concerned you may be mis-reading your constituents here. The overwhelming majority of ACPS families are low and middle income. They may not always monitor your blog. But they also are not taking expensive spring break vacations in this economy.

  44. Colleen says:

    It would be helpful to know what you mean by adding “significant time” to the end of the school day. This would allow the community to give you more helpful input on what you are proposing. Many of us have very carefully ochestrated after school activities and car pool schedules that allow for little “wiggle” room and have been paid for well in advance. If you move forward with this option. I think anything more than 30-minutes would be detrimental on many fronts. I’m also concerned with students doing homework late in the evenings.

  45. Paul George says:

    From a teaching perspective, (hypothetically), if 30-40 minutes are added to the school day, this could mean that 3-5 minutes are added to each class period, (I believe this was done a few years ago when we were in the same situation.)

    Adding an extra three minutes to each class that teachers teach in no way makes up for the full class periods that we missed due to snow. It is not the same from an instructional standpoint. I could do a whole lot more, such as cover a full unit or six new concepts, with six full class periods than I could with 90 three-minute add-ons from March through June. If honoring and restoring the lost instructional time is our goal in this decision, I don’t think the daily added time is the way to go.

  46. A student says:

    This is so complicated we should just make -up the three days we can and just forget about the rest. we obviously cant make -up the nine days we missed so far easily. so we should’nt try to extend days or even cancel our holidays or take time off of our summer. we all need a break sometime. even teachers and staff members!!!!!!!!!!!!!! a snow storm like this doesnt always come around. we should just see it as a gift!

  47. Eric says:

    Although I am against adding time to the school days, if time is added, I do think that ALL students should get more break time. Personally, I don’t know how tired younger students are after the day, but from reading the posts, they seem pretty tired. However, I do know that I (a junior) am taxed near the end of the day. One idea might be making lunch 45 minutes long to allow students to relax more to prepare for a longer school day, but I’m not sure if that could be done. Another idea would be to just add a 20-30 min break during the day. Students could take a quick nap, get a snack, or go see teachers to make up missed assignments. Just some thoughts.

  48. ACPS Teacher (Elem.)/Parent (Elem. & M.S.) says:

    2 complex words for a simple solution: QUALITY and EFFICIENCY. If that’s how teachers are (and should be) instructing our students on a day-to-day basis, these missed days shouldn’t negatively impact them in the long run.

  49. Tom says:

    Thank you to administrators and school board members for soliciting the input of the community before making this difficult decision. In addition to this blog, how will you get feedback from families who may not know the best way to voice their opinions?

    My family opposes adding a significant amount of time to each school day. In order to add time to the school schedule, then a significant amount of family time will be lost each day in March and April. We’re not willing to give up precious family time, especially considering that Alexandria schools already exceed state requirements.

    With the hectic pace of life in this area, often an hour or 30 minutes is all we have together in one day as a family. Granted, every family situation is different, but every family surely will be impacted in one way or another.

    Students of all ages are already facing a limited amount of physical outdoor activity in the coming weeks due to the snow. An extended school day will only add to their physical and mental load.

    Please make a decision in the best interests of the students and waive as many make-up days as legally allowed. Physically and mentally healthy children will perform better on upcoming tests. Besides, we trust in the creative and effective teachers in Alexandria to recover lost instructional opportunities during the regular school day.

  50. Julie Rocchio says:

    This is a difficult decision with no easy solution. Our family asks ACPS and the School Board to consider the following:
    - There is little gained this year by adding any time beyond the minimum legally mandated instructional hours.
    - The week of “early release” days at the end of the school year does not offer meaningful learning time. Unless there is a critical staff need for year-end early release days, they should be permanently eliminated starting this June.
    - Please build in some type of flexibility for families and teachers/staff who cannot adhere to the chosen make-up plan due to employment or child care committments.
    - I was impressed that our 5th grade team thought to send home daily Math and Language Arts assignments on 2/4 through 2/12. For a variety of reasons, including our experience that some students have been working on core subjects daily, please consider that elementary school students may not have the same make-up needs as secondary students.