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Superintendent Addresses Teachers about Adding Days, Shortening Recess

| February 20, 2014 | 0 Comments | Education

Prince William Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts sent a memo to his colleagues addressing how the School Division plans to make up hours lost to snow and cold weather days.

“After numerous snow closings and four delayed starts, our elementary schools are currently on track to fall 14.7 hours under Virginia’s minimum requirement for yearly instructional hours,” Walts’ memo read.

The email memo explains that the School Board voted Wednesday evening to add 1.5-2 days to the current school calendar as well as reduce five minutes from recess each day, starting Feb. 24, in order to meet required school hours.

The school calendar will now include March 31, formerly a teacher work day; June 17, the last day of school, formerly a half day, now a full day; and a half a day on June 18 for elementary school students.

Dr. Walts said elementary-school students need to make up more time, since their 15 minutes of recess every day is not counted as instructional time.

Referring to a petition that has received 850 signatures as of 11:45 a.m. Thursday morning after having just gone live the night before, Dr. Walts said the School Board is doing its best to make the best of a “bad and uncontrollable” situation. He gave no indication that the petition, nor parents’ emails or phone calls, would sway his staff or the School Board to reconsider their position on reducing recess time.

Rather, he explained that other options, such annexing President’s Day or even adding a Saturday to the school calendar, have been tried by other districts, and were likewise met with vocal criticism.

However, the memo demonstrated the school division’s flexibility in allowing teachers, at the permission of their principals, to offer additional physical education time in lieu of recess time they are giving up.

“This does not mean that students must remain at their desks. Working with their principals, teachers will have flexibility to decide how to use the ‘regained’ instructional time, including the potential for supervised exercise and wellness activities,” Walts wrote.

Walts also explained that his staff is not expecting a waiver from the Governor that would forgive the missed days.

At the School Board meeting last night, Walts explained to the School Board that securing a waiver for missed days is extremely rare; school divisions need to first demonstrate they tried everything to make up those missed days.

He asks his colleagues for their understanding of the situation the school division finds itself in as well as their cooperation.

“All of us need to do our best to make the most of the cards we were dealt. We do not control the weather and we have few options in the face of Virginia requirements,” Walts said.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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