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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
ArlingtonEditorial: APS calendar proposal step in wrong direction

Editorial: APS calendar proposal step in wrong direction

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In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. So let’s take a walk down memory lane for some of the biggest decisions of Arlington Public Schools since the advent of the COVID crisis in March 2020:

• For the spring semester in the immediate arrival of the pandemic, when students and teachers were sent home to fend for themselves, the school system adopted what came to be known as the “every child left behind” principle – refusing to teach any new material to any students during the last months of the school year, because doing so wouldn’t be, ahem, equitable to some students.

• Just about a week after then-President Donald Trump in June 2020 used the bully pulpit to demand, in his bellicose way, that students get back in classrooms at the start of the 2020-21 school year, Arlington Public Schools became the first in the region to say nope, they weren’t going to do it. The timing was surely no mere coincidence.

• The rollout of the online-learning program at the start of the 2020-21 school year was a bit of a mess, but worse, Arlington school leaders clung to it even as evidence mounted that the negative impacts to students – especially at-risk students of all kinds – of keeping them out of classrooms far outweighed the potential health implications of sending them back. And when Arlington did start sending students back to classrooms, it was a half-hearted effort, at best.


• To its credit, the school system offered parents an all-online-learning option for the 2021-22 school year. About 3 percent of students enrolled, a miniscule number but one that included some of the most vulnerable populations. And Arlington Public Schools managed to screw that up, too, with a rollout even school leaders declared a disaster.

So now we find ourselves in the present, with the School Board set to vote on a proposed 2022-23 calendar as recommended earlier this month by the superintendent.

You’d think the school system would be attempting to cram as many instructional days and hours into that calendar as possible, to build back from what has been, effectively, at least a year of lost learning for every student whose parents didn’t abandon the public schools for private, parochial or home-schooling options.

But you’d be wrong. In fact, it almost seems as if the proposed 2022-23 calendar aims to provide the bare minimum instruction time as required under Virginia law, with very little wiggle room. It seems almost a calculated slap in the face to parents, students and taxpayers.

We’ll see how the final vote goes. But one thing is for sure: We hope incoming Gov. Glenn Youngkin installs some strong leadership in the Virginia Department of Education. Leaders who can force school districts to fulfill their responsibilities to the communities they serve.

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