Arlington School Board members on Dec. 1 will attempt to sort out conflicting views as they get their first formal look at the proposed 2023-24 school calendar.
The proposal by Superintendent Francisco Durán and staff diverts from the recommendation of the school system’s calendar-advisory committee, as the superintendent is recommending a first day of school on Aug. 21, 2023, while the committee and many respondents to an online survey preferred Aug. 28 as the start date.
But the public’s views of the subject are muddy: Of the 7,122 respondents to the online survey, 28.3 percent preferred one schedule proposal, 38.1 percent a second and 33.6 percent a third – not much help to School Board members attempting to divine public sentiment.
(Of the 7,122 respondents, about 60 percent were parents, 33 percent were staff, 8 percent were students, 7 percent were community members and 2 percent were parents of children not yet old enough to attend school, according to school-system figures. Yes, that does add up to about 110 percent.)
Respondents to the poll were allowed to make comments, and two major themes emerged: the school system should attempt to align its calendar to those of its neighbors, and recent efforts to add a variety of religious holidays to the calendar appear to have gone overboard.
“I support the spirit of inclusiveness, but do not support APS adopting so many religious holidays,” one respondent wrote. Another said it would be better to remove “most/all” religious holidays “instead of having so many.”
Durán’s calendar proposal, which is expected to be voted on in mid-December, includes 180 calendar days of instruction, an increase that may, or may not, mollify critics who say the school system seems to always aim for the lowest possible amount of instruction time. State law requires districts to provide a minimum of either 180 days or 990 hours of instructional time; Arlington in recent years has opted for the latter.
Under Durán’s proposal, winter break would run Dec. 18 to Jan. 1 and spring break would run March 25-April 1.