Starting After Labor Day

Starting After Labor Day

For the first time in a decade, Loudoun schools will be starting after Labor Day.

The school district's state-issued waiver expired when the schools did not miss enough school days last year for weather and emergency conditions. The state considers five of the past 10 years with the highest number of missed days to continue the waiver. As a result, the school district will be required to start school after Labor Day beginning with the 2004-05 school year.

"We followed suit with other schools in the metro area," said Edgar Hatrick, superintendent of schools. "Unfortunately, Labor Day is on Sept. 6, the latest it can come."

THE CALENDAR will start the school year on Sept. 7 and end it on June 17 without changing the fixed calendar that provides predictable holidays and maintains the breaks outlined in the School Board's policy.

"This is the best we can get and comply with the law as it is today," said School Board member John Andrews (Broad Run).

The board voted unanimously in favor of the calendar, possibly a first, said Candyce Cassell (Sugarland Run). The calendar allows the school year to end the third week of June and moves some of the staff development days held during the school year to the period before school starts, accommodating the year length, federal holidays and student record days at the end of each quarter.

"What we realized, there weren't any days left," Hatrick said. "This is our attempt to meet our ongoing staff development ... needs."

The calendar places the five required staff development days to the period before school starts. From Aug. 20 to Sept. 3, there are two new teacher days, three countywide staff development days and three planning and conference days, along with six planning days during the school year.

The calendar cuts the number of teacher contract days from 198 to 197 days and student calendar days from 185 to 183, while still maintaining extra days built into the calendar for emergency and weather conditions. The winter break is scheduled from Dec. 23-31, 2004 and spring break from March 21-25, 2005.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the School Board voted unanimously in support of the enrollment projections for the 2004-05 and the 2005-06 school years. The projection for Sept. 30, 2004 is for 44,715 students and for Sept. 30, 2005, 49,059 students. The growth rate is projected to be 9.7 percent for both years. Sept. 30 is the state's official day for enrollment counts.

Several teachers and classified employees asked the School Board to consider lowering class size and increasing salaries for the Fiscal Year 2005 budget, which the board will begin deliberating in December for county adoption in April 2004.

Claire Scholz, president of the Loudoun Education Association (LEA), said decreasing class size would allow teachers to give students more individualized attention. LEA requested a class size of 18 students in elementary schools, 20 students in middle schools and 23 students in high schools and a 5 percent raise for all employees to bring salaries to a "competitive level. She said, "Playing catch-up in the salary game is costly and difficult."

School bus driver Betty Trump asked the School Board to give classified employees "fair and equal pay."

A mother and wife, Trump's salary is barely enough to take care of herself, she said. Her hours were cut earlier this year from full time to five hours a day, one of which has since been restored. "I didn't take this job part-time," she said, adding that the school district is losing bus drivers due to pay and hours. "Please offer our drivers an 8-hour contract. ... It would be nice to know I could afford to keep my job."

"The classified employees are grossly underpaid and under-appreciated," said Al Dickinson, also a classified employee.