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An advocacy group is pressing the Arlington School Board to add more instructional time to the school system’s proposed 2022-23 calendar.
The comments came at the Dec. 2 School Board meeting, in which board members were presented with a staff proposal that meets the letter of state law in providing at least 990 hours of instructional time.
But the school system should be going further – holding classes the full 180 days that had been the pre-COVID standard – said Camille Galdes, who spoke on behalf of Arlington Parents for Education.
“All around us, school systems are actually increasing instructional times,” Galdes said. “I find it confounding why this year, when students are struggling to catch up, APS has proposed to meet only the hour standard and reduce overall time in school from years past – right when they need instructional time the most.”
“Our neighbors in Fairfax County, Falls Church City and Prince William County are all offering 180 days or more,” Galdes said.
The bipartisan Arlington Parents for Education evolved from concerns in the community that the Arlington school system and its leaders have done too little to address the instructional needs of students during the pandemic.
A member of the organization – Miranda Turner – ran in the spring 2021 Democratic School Board caucus, echoing the theme that school leaders need to focus on making up for instructional loss. Turner received just under 40 percent of the vote, a somewhat impressive total given that the Democratic leadership coalesced around the candidacy of Mary Kadera, whom they saw as less likely to rock the boat on the all-Democratic School Board.
(Kadera went on to win the general election and will take office Jan. 1. She succeeds Monique O’Grady, who called it quits after a single four-year term.)
Nationally, a consensus seems to be emerging that school districts, like Arlington, that went whole hog into lockdown status for much of the 2020-21 school year probably did students more harm than good. Arlington, in fact, led the way in the local region, announcing in June 2020 that it would not return to in-person classes at the start of the 2020-21 school year.
That decision was announced just a week after then-President Trump said students should be back in class in the fall of 2020; what the county school system would have done had Trump taken the opposite tack, saying students should be kept online, is a mystery without a solution.