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Editor: Arlington Public Schools has finally completed its partial reopening plan. I say “partial” because non-immersion elementary-school students returned to school for 81 fewer minutes a day than pre-pandemic.

When the school day is only 5.5 hours long, including lunch, recess, and a lot of handwashing – 81 minutes is a HUGE loss.

But not for the two immersion elementary schools. Because of state language-arts requirements, those lottery-based elementary schools are operating on their normal full schedule – in fact, APS increased their school day by 20 minutes.

Middle school has full days. High school has full days. Fairfax, Alexandria, and Falls Church have full days.

Why are non-immersion elementary students (22 of 24 elementary schools) being left behind by APS, when experts agree in-person education is vital for young learners?

Reverting to a normal school day would add the equivalent of five school days for elementary kids. If APS reopened for Mondays in-person (each set every other week), APS hybrid students would gain five in-person days this spring.

When I was a student in Fairfax County Public Schools, after the blizzard of 1993 the Fairfax School Board lengthened every school day by 30 minutes in the fourth quarter to gain back instruction time. Lengthening school days this spring would gain another two days of in-person instruction for APS students.

APS should be implementing every safe change to increase in-person instruction time. At the very least, the students at the county’s 22 non-immersion elementary schools deserve the same opportunity as the students at immersion elementary schools – two FULL days of in-person education.

It’s been a very hard year. I have three young kids in three different child-care situations. I have worked in-person every day since last summer. We’ve had to use logistical wizardry to get through every day.

But now that the students and vaccinated teachers are safely in their classrooms, why isn’t APS maximizing their learning?

Sheila Leonard, Arlington

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