Arlington Public Schools (APS) proposed four drafts for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year calendar earlier in 2019. After further review of the original three drafts, a fourth draft was proposed by the interim superintendent Cintia Johnson on January 23 and selected on February 7. This draft includes changes to the school year’s start and end dates. In accordance with this fourth plan, school will begin on August 31. These potential changes are made possible by the Virginia legislatures’ decision, which went into effect July 1, that gave all school districts the ability to decide whether they start school before or after Labor Day.
School will begin before Labor Day on the 31 of August, meaning an early end to the summer. However, beginning early would allow more time to prepare for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams.
“Starting before Labor Day will provide our students with a bit of extra time for learning before our end of course examinations, Assistant Principal Ms. Claire Peters said. “We have no control over [those dates], and there are other school districts that are starting earlier than us. So they have more time to prepare and are still taking those tests at the same time, so I think that will be a benefit for our students.”
Many sports and other school activities already begin in early August, so for students who participate in activities such as football, cross country, field hockey or band, going back to school a little earlier may actually be beneficial to them.
“Our fall athletes and marching band [are] back at the beginning of August so already their summer vacation is already over, and if we start school a little earlier I think it will be nice for them to miss a little bit less of their summer,” Ms. Peters said. “They can enjoy it in June as opposed to missing out on it in August when they’re back practicing.”
While there are positives to starting school earlier, option four and its August start date may cause problems for both students and teachers. Some people’s summer plans could be inflexible with the changes to the calendar. Though this process followed the typical schedule for deciding on the county’s calendar, this change was dramatic enough that some faculty and students are frustrated the calendar was not selected earlier. In January, before the calendar was released, Ms. Kelly expressed that she was upset by APS’s hesitancy.
“A lot of people at this point have already made plans, and it is ridiculous that the school board hasn’t made a decision yet, because it’s cutting into people’s summer plans already,” Ms. Kelly said. “I think that it is unfair to start a school year and then change the schedule mid way through.”
Many students share similar concerns about not being able to go on late summer vacations, as well as how an earlier start may conflict with studying for standardized testing, completing summer assignments and beginning college applications.
“I am super mad about this, and as a junior, I have a lot to do before senior year in the summer, like taking the SAT which is in August,” Junior Shea Messman said. “Now it is possible that it could be during the school year, which would absolutely suck. I normally go on vacation [in August] because there [are] fewer people there because other people are back in school, so it is really beneficial for the Arlington people. I already have a lot of my summer planned out. It is just gonna mess up so many things.”
While there are many perspectives on the different options, ultimately the fourth option will go into effect.The administration is confident they will be able to adjust to the proposed changes.
“It could be a little bit bumpy at the start of the year, but I think students and teachers will be able to adjust to that with no problems,” Ms. Peters said.