Limited Early Release Mondays for 2024-25 School Year

Elementary school students will be released three hours early on seven Mondays during the 2024-25 school year

Providing an excellent education to all students and meeting individual student needs requires appropriate planning time for teachers. This means teachers need a dedicated block of time to prepare lessons, participate in professional development and training, and collaborate with peers.

With that in mind, FCPS has developed a divisionwide plan for seven three-hour early release days (Mondays) for elementary students in the 2024-25 school year

Reasons for Early Release Mondays

Demands on teacher time have increased dramatically since the pandemic. With the adoption of new textbooks, differentiated support plans for students, required professional development for the new Virginia Literacy Act, new reading and math Standards of Learning exams (SOLs) from the state, and other initiatives — teachers have a lot to do in addition to actually teaching! These demands require blocks of uninterrupted, in person, and collaborative time to plan. 

A well-supported and continuously improving teaching staff will lead to better educational outcomes for students.

Early release Mondays will also reduce our need for substitute teachers, which are very difficult to find.

Start Date

Early release Mondays will start in mid-September of this year. Each elementary school will have a total of seven early release days throughout the school year, which is about one per month.

How It Works

We encourage all parents/caregivers to have their student take their normal route home (bus, walk, kiss and ride) on early dismissal days. While these are designated as early release days — where necessary, we will ensure that every student has supervised enrichment activities at the school and returns home at the regular time if that is what works best for your family. 

Activities are in development. For now, we know that:

  • School staff who have already completed their required training or used their allotted planning time will assist with supervising students. 
  • Licensed educators at FCPS’ central office will also support this effort.
  • High-impact tutoring will be available for identified students.
  • School Age Child Care (SACC) sites will provide supervision for currently enrolled SACC students.  
  • FCPS is working with Boys and Girls Clubs, STEM groups, Olympiads, math clubs, Scouts, and other organizations to provide coverage as well. 
  • Students may also attend PTA sponsored clubs. Schools will work with the PTA to facilitate this option. 

Students With Disabilities

All elementary students will be dismissed three hours early on early release Mondays, including students with disabilities. Special education teachers in grades K-6 are required to participate in the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) professional development per the Virginia Literacy Act. Students with disabilities who are not able to return home at the early release time will participate in supervised activities, such as those listed above, until the school’s normal dismissal time. FCPS care providers should be familiar enough with the student to meet their safety, communication, personal care needs, etc.  FCPS case managers should be prepared to consult with FCPS care providers to ensure students’ specific needs are met so that they can access the care. Parent advocacy groups, families of students with disabilities, and special education teachers will be on the Steering Committee to ensure concerns are addressed regarding how to best support students with disabilities during early release Mondays.

Transportation

For the first two months, buses will run their regular route at elementary schools’ designated early release time and again at their normal dismissal time. FCPS will then evaluate whether double routing for buses is necessary. We will do our best to meet the needs of our students, families, and staff. 

Instructional Hours

The three-hour early release will not impact the state-mandated number of instructional hours, but it will reduce the amount of built in snow days. 

Steering Committee

A committee of school and central office leaders, teachers, parents/caregivers, other FCPS operational staff, and community members has been created to make sure this work is both supported and implemented consistently across all of our elementary schools. Some of the committee’s priority topics will include:

  • Estimating how many students will need supervision and support, so FCPS can best allocate our resources. 
  • Determining if regular after-school activities will be moved to the three-hour early release period.
  • How/if the three-hour early release block will be split equally between planning and training across all schools.
  • Exploring why some schools have early release days during weeks when students already have days off, such as Thanksgiving week.

Community Engagement

Superintendent Reid hosted two Community Conversations to answer questions from the community about limited early release Mondays. Popular questions centered around the following topics.

Supervised Activities for Students Who Need to Remain at School

Each elementary school will have seven early release Mondays during the 2024-25 school year. Many students will return home at the early release dismissal time on early release days. Students who are not able to return home at that time will participate in supervised activities until the school’s normal dismissal time. 

Activities are in development. For now, we know that:

  • School staff who have already completed their required training or used their allotted planning time will assist with supervising students. 
  • Licensed educators at FCPS’ central office will also support this effort.
  • High-impact tutoring will be available for identified students.
  • SACC sites will provide supervision for currently enrolled SACC students with an option for additional students who are not currently enrolled to attend. 
  • FCPS is working with Boys and Girls Clubs, STEM groups, Olympiads, math clubs, Scouts, and other organizations to provide coverage as well. 
  • Students may also attend PTA sponsored clubs. Schools will work with the PTA to facilitate this option. 

Early Release Mondays vs. Another Day of the Week

Fairfax County Public Schools used to have early release Mondays for elementary schools every Monday up until about 10 years ago. With that in mind, designating Mondays for this limited early release initiative seemed as if it would be more familiar to families.

At the end of the 2024-25 school year, we will evaluate the plan’s effectiveness. This includes researching whether staff had enough time to understand their training and whether student learning increased.

The Steering Committee will make their recommendation by June 1, 2025, if not earlier, to determine whether limited early release Mondays should continue. 

Impact on Specials Teachers (e.g., Physical Education, Art, and Music)

Some specialists have more planning time than classroom teachers, so they would be asked to support student activities during the three-hour early release time. We want to make sure specialists get their planning time, too, and will ask principals to work with their regional assistant superintendents to develop a plan that best fits their school’s needs. Principals will defer to FCPS Regulation 4422 to ensure that specials teachers receive their planning hours. 

Timing of Teacher Training

Some parents/caregivers have asked if it’s possible for teachers to do their required training during the summer. This is not an option for several reasons: 

  • Many of our teachers take second jobs and/or teach summer school for extra income.
  • Besides having a summer job, teachers may have other conflicts during the summer.
  • Teacher contracts with FCPS state the number of days a teacher will work. We would need to pay teachers for their time outside of their contracted hours. We used substitutes in the past, but it’s very hard to find quality subs.
  • The majority of elementary teachers will also receive three days of training this summer on new basal resources (reading materials for students).

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) study showed that Virginia schools are continually underfunded, which impacts our ability to provide competitive compensation for our teachers. 

Dates for Early Release

Each elementary school will have seven early release days, which works out to roughly one per month. Those days will depend upon the pyramid under which a school falls. Check FCPS' Region and Pyramid Map for a breakdown. 

Early release Mondays for elementary schools in the following pyramids are planned for the dates below: Edison, Hayfield, Lewis, Mount Vernon, South County, West Potomac, Annandale, Falls Church, Justice, Lake Braddock, West Springfield, and Woodson.

  • September 16
  • October 21
  • November 18
  • February 10
  • March 10
  • April 21
  • May 12

Early release Mondays for elementary schools in the following pyramids are planned for the dates below: Herndon, Langley, Madison, Marshall, McLean, South Lakes, Centreville, Chantilly, Fairfax, Oakton, Robinson, and Westfield.

  • September 23
  • October 28
  • November 25
  • February 24
  • March 17
  • April 28
  • May 19

Questions?

If you have questions about early release Mondays, please email [email protected]