No early exit for county students

Because mild temperatures this winter kept snow and ice at bay, Manassas, Manassas Park and Fairfax school systems are giving students and teachers extra days off this summer.

But Prince William County Public Schools students are being left out in the cold.

“We’re getting paid to work. How do you justify [to taxpayers] paying teachers to work and giving them off?” replied Prince William Superintendent Edward L. Kelly last week.

Kelly said that Virginia law requires students be in school 180 days a fiscal year. County schools mandate that the school year be 184 days long.

“We need to use every day we have to teach kids,” Kelly said.

Robert Ferrebee, associate superintendent of management for Prince William County schools, said the issue comes up annually and every year county officials reject the idea of cutting the school year short despite what neighboring school systems are doing.

Fairfax County Schools are closing schools two days earlier as a benefit to teachers, according to a statement by Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech.

“If we can’t provide more financial compensation for them, we need to look at alternative ways to let them know they are appreciated,” Domenech said in a statement.

“In Fairfax county, teachers were given a 2 percent raise; we gave our teachers an average 7 percent raise. [Shortening the school year] was Fairfax County’s way of saying, ‘Hey, we blew it but we’re going to give you those days off,'” said School Board member Steven Keen, R-Woodbridge.

Manassas School Board member Mary E. Andersen said the school system opted to give teachers and students two extra days off with an extended Memorial Day weekend by closing schools May 24 and shortening the school year by one day.

“We have had several years where we haven’t used all the snow days. We just thought it would be a good thing to give these days to teachers and students,” Andersen said.

The last day for students in Manassas schools will be June 13. High school students will be excused at noon; middle school students at 12:40 p.m.; and elementary students at 1:30 p.m. Teachers must return to school June 14 for a final work day.

In Manassas Park, the school year will end on June 12 instead of June 14. Manassas Park High School will dismiss students at 10:30 a.m.; Manassas Park Middle School at 10:50 a.m.; Cougar Elementary School at 12:50 p.m.; and Manassas Park Elementary at 1:30 p.m.

In Prince William County, the school year will end June 18 for students. High school and PACE special education students will be dismissed at 11:30 a.m.; middle school students at 12:15 p.m.; and elementary school students at 1 p.m. Teachers will finish the school year with a final work day the following day.

Kelly said the last several days of the school year will consist of classroom instruction and nothing else.

Despite complaints that the school year was not cut short, Kelly said the school system will not waver in its decision.

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