Virginia is surveying parents about year-round school as lawmakers try to take the temperature for potential legislation next year.
Longer school years are an idea school officials in Maryland and the District also have been advocating for, as research shows that extending the calendar improves student achievement -- but funding and teacher contracts can complicate the picture, and parents sometimes prefer to keep summers for vacations and camps.
Del. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, is among three lawmakers looking to parent feedback to guide the next General Assembly, convening in January. She told The Washington Examiner she believes the county's growing Hispanic population particularly would benefit from ditching summer break.
"You have that long break in your English speaking and reinforcement, you lose a lot, period, and teachers spend the first couple weeks of school reintroducing the basics," said Kory, who is the former vice chairwoman of the Fairfax County School Board and a founding board member of a charter school looking to open in Fairfax County with an extended school day and school year. With year-round school, "the kids who don't speak English at home really do progress faster, and I'm very sorry we don't have these programs in Fairfax County."
Kory said she is hoping a statewide survey of parents will show enough support for year-round school that the Virginia General Assembly will provide funding for school systems to extend the school year. The survey asks parents how a year-round calender would affect their children's academic achievement, as well as their family vacations and child care scheduling, among other topics.
The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation this year allowing Prince George's County to operate year-round schools. In 2010, Maryland lawmakers directed the state school board to explore year-round schools and directed counties to consider them as an option.
Montgomery County Public Schools does not have any yearlong campuses, but all 38 middle schools offer summer sessions.
In the District, both Mayor Vincent Gray and Chancellor Kaya Henderson have been vocal in recent months about wanting longer school days and a longer school year, budget permitting. In April, DC Public Schools announced a $10 million grant program that is encouraging principals to submit applications with extended days, years or both.
Seven of Fairfax County's elementary schools used to operate on a full-year model, under which students would attend school for nine weeks and then break for three weeks, then repeat the cycle. The system was eliminated during budget cuts two years ago, spokesman John Torre said.