School Board votes on a new school start date


Infographic by Liam Timar-Wilcox & Megan Clinton

The start of September has always been marked as the start of school. However, after the recent school board vote, this will change.

On December 17th, the Falls Church School board voted to select pre – Labor Day option B. This means that school will start on August 24, 2020, and end on June 10, 2021.

In the past, all Virginia public schools were required to have the first day of attendance after Labor Day. However, a change in the code on July 1, 2019, now allows schools to start up to 14 days before the Labor Day holiday. With this change, FCCPS schools could potentially start as early as Monday, August 24 in 2020.

Even with school starting before Labor Day next year, this decision would not necessarily affect the 2021-2022 school year, as the decisions for school calendars are made every year. 

There was an Ad Hoc committee for creating the calendar options for the school board to vote on. They were given restrictions because the calendar had to include a certain number of school days, teacher workdays, holidays, specific lengths of the quarters, testing windows, and professional development days.  They also had to take into account the move into the new school.

The Ad Hoc committee was created to decide on a start date for the 2020 school year. Its members include members of the school staff and the Parent-Teacher Association.

Next year, Labor Day is going to be on September 7, which is almost a week later than it normally is. If school started after Labor Day, it would be impossible for schools to let out before June 15, which is around the end-date for school most years. Even though school technically is starting two weeks earlier than normal, it will really only be one week earlier than normal due to the late Labor Day. 

When asked what her favorite calendar option was, Dr. Zernik, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee and teacher at Mason, said, “The options that start before Labor Day because I really do like getting out as early in June as possible. My daughters are in college and it’s nice to spend more time with them.”

There were debates over how long Thanksgiving, winter, and spring breaks should be in order to get school out closest to June 15th as possible.

“I advocated for a two-week winter break, they were thinking of having an eight-day one, but a long winter break is important to students,” said senior Niharika Singhvi, the only student representative on the Ad Hoc Committee. 

There were also discussions on which holidays students should take time off school because they wanted to be inclusive to as many different cultures as possible.

“We really tried to promote diversity and make school holidays for different festivals like Eid and Hanukkah. It was very difficult to make sure that every group was represented,” said Singhvi. 

Overall, there were four different proposals for the school calendar: two that start before Labor Day and two that start after Labor Day. 

A survey of FCCPS staff, students, parents of students, and Falls Church Community members was conducted from November 15th to the 29th. The most popular option was pre-Labor Day option B, with 444 of the 1,240 votes cast. The second most popular option was post-Labor Day option B, with 404 votes. The third and fourth choices were post – Labor Day option A with 213 votes, and pre-Labor Day option A with 172 votes. 

One of the most important factors appears to be the length of winter break. The first and second most popular options both had two-week winter breaks, and the least popular option had the shortest winter break. 

Students and staff who voted chose pre-Labor Day option B as the most popular first choice. This calendar includes a two-week winter break and the last day of school will be June 10th. Parents, however, favored post-Labor Day option B. The school board ultimately voted 4-2 in favor of the pre-Labor Day option B calendar.