Fairfax County School Board Adopts Calendar Designed to Recognize, Respect, and Honor Plurality of Religious and Cultural Observances

News
March 18, 2021

The Fairfax County School Board has voted to approve a calendar for the 2021-22 school year that is designed to recognize, respect, and honor the plurality of religious and cultural observances in Fairfax County.

The calendar, which recognizes 15 religious and cultural observances in the school year, while also decoupling Good Friday from Spring Break, ensures students will not have to make choices between honoring their religious or cultural observance, or taking a test this coming school year.

Under two updated regulations, tests, quizzes, field trips, graduation, homecoming, or FCPS-scheduled athletic events cannot be scheduled on any of the 15 religious and cultural observances. Tests and quizzes will be given prior to any of the 15 days, so that students will not be expected to study on these days. Employees will be permitted to make up 16 hours of any time they miss for religious or cultural observances. These regulations will be updated for the start of the new school year which begins July 1.

“The approach taken in the development of this calendar is one of equity and inclusivity. It aims to center equity by elevating our systems' respect for religious and cultural observances. While this final calendar for 2021-22 may not align with the goals of everyone in Fairfax County, it recognizes all religious and cultural observances where Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has seen above-average absences over the last five years,” said School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson. “Going forward, we will establish clearly defined priorities and a robust engagement process that allows us to do this work in a better, more inclusive way.”

The approved calendar for the 2021-22 School Year will serve as an interim calendar while FCPS develops a calendar development process that allows the School Board to establish clear criteria and priorities for the calendar; clearly defines the roles of staff, Board, and community members; and creates a robust community engagement process that outlines how and where feedback will be solicited and shared with the Board.

The calendar recognizes a diverse range of religious and cultural observances including Eid al-Adha, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Día de los Muertos, Diwali, Bodhi Day, Three Kings Day/Epiphany, Orthodox Christmas, Orthodox Epiphany, Lunar New Year, Ramadan, Good Friday, Theravada, Orthodox Good Friday/Last Night of Passover and Eid al-Fitr. It decouples spring break from any religious or cultural observances but allows for those that observe holidays during that time period to observe.

The calendar, which complies with legal requirements that require school districts to have a secular reason, such as excessive absenteeism, that would impact operations behind the designation of any holiday, is designed to minimize disruption to instruction. The length of each quarter is similar, and the semesters are balanced. The end of the third quarter on March 31 also aligns well with senior college grade requirements. Teacher workdays are placed to minimize instructional disruptions while still supporting teacher grading, planning, and professional development time.

It provides continuity by using a calendar structure that is similar to past school years and sees holidays and teacher workdays spread evenly throughout the calendar year, with at least one student holiday every month. 

The calendar also mitigates any financial impact to employees who are not paid on holidays and ends the school year in the first half of June, so 10- and 11-month employees can pursue summer employment opportunities earlier. The calendar sets the first day of school as Monday, August 23, 2021, and the last day as Friday, June 10, 2022. 

The school year calendar was developed in response to the School Board motion on March 2, requesting staff develop an additional calendar that took into account: legal considerations; instructional concerns and disruption; student wellness, both socio-emotional and academic; staff pay; absenteeism data; operational disruption; staff days off and planning time; survey preferences; transparency and community climate; equity and inclusivity; and two floating holidays that could be used for religious or cultural observances. 

The approved calendar includes a three-day Thanksgiving break (November 24-26, 2021), a two-week winter break (December 20, 2021 to December 31, 2021), and a one-week spring break (April 4-8, 2022). Spring Break is decoupled from any religious or cultural observances. 

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For more information, contact the Office of Communication and Community Relations at 571-423-1200

 

Watch the School Board calendar discussion.