School buses park outside of Arlington's Key Elementary School.
Photo by Sydney Kashiwagi
This winter, thousands of area students were given more days off than expected.
Day after day, parents, students and faculty received notice that school had yet again been cancelled due to the heavy snow and cold weather, which forced students and faculty to watch one of the coldest and heaviest winters since the 2010 Snowmagedden from home.
But even though all of the snow has melted and summer is right around the corner, public schools across the region are still feeling the repercussions of winter.
“My kids had a great year despite Mother Nature's better efforts,” said Jessica Wehrman, a mother of two Maury Elementary School students in Alexandria.
To meet the state’s 180 days, or 990 hours of mandatory education instruction, schools across Northern Virginia and Maryland had to come up with plans to make up for the days they missed during the heavy snow.
Alexandria City public school students missed 10 days of school this year because of the winter weather. Since ACPS has 183 days of school, which include built-in make-up days, ACPS was able to meet the state requirement by using those built in make-up days and adding minutes to its middle schools in order to finish the school year according to schedule. But had any more days been missed, ACPS would have needed to make up another day into summer.
Wehrman says that she was relieved to find out that her children did not have to stay in school longer than they needed. “You start making summer plans around January or February,” said Wehrman. “That's when summer camps start registration, and camps have varying refund policies.”
Arlington was one of the few public school jurisdictions that did not have to add on any full make up days at all. This year, APS students missed only nine days of school, and therefore were able to instead turn their early release days into full days of school to meet the state’s 990 hours of mandatory instruction.
“It’s great that we didn’t have to make up so many hours,” said Ida Olkkonen, a mother of two at Arlington’s Key Elementary School.
But other public school jurisdictions like Fairfax, were less fortunate this winter. Fairfax students stayed home for 11 days, and had to add on five make-up days this year, which has taken away five days from summer.
FCPS Public Information Officer John Torre says that after March 17, which was the final day that school was cancelled, every possibility was explored before they were forced to add on another day into summer.
Virginia public schools have the option of filing an appeal waiver to the state’s department of education to try to avoid extra make-up days, but although FCPS’ considered requesting for a waiver, the VDOE said that FCPS would not be given one.
June 25 is now the last day of class for Fairfax students, an extension that parents like Nishta Gupta, an Edison High School mother of two, thinks is unnecessary.
“They should have more days built into the schedule,” said Gupta, who is thankful that she and her family did not have any travel plans this year. “It’s not a good idea to make them up.”
Montgomery County was another public school jurisdiction that had to make up days to account for the 10 days of school that were lost during the winter.
“Every week it was storm, after storm, after storm, so we had to find some way to make up some of those instructional days that were lost if we did not receive a waiver,” said Gboyinde Onijala, a MCPS spokeswoman.
But in April, Maryland’s state superintendent granted MCPS a waiver that allowed them to go four days less than the mandatory days of instructions if MCPS held just two make up days.
The last day of school for MCPS will now be a half-day of instruction on June 13.