Outdated DCPS calendar requires attention

As DCPS students, we have all spent time counting down the interminable 180 days of school, waiting for the next day off. We envy the private schools around us: they have longer breaks, they start later and end earlier, yet they still claim to have more class time. 

Across the nation, schools are beginning to push their starting dates into August to ensure longer breaks and earlier ending dates. However, nearby Montgomery County Public Schools end on June 16th this year, a full week earlier than us, yet they started on the same day as DCPS. Private schools such as Georgetown Day School (GDS) started a week later, had over two weeks of winter break, and will still end earlier than us. These schools typically have longer breaks instead of the random days off that we DCPS students have come to expect, yet they don’t lose total class time. 

In looking for factors that could explain the inconvenient structure of our schedule, we examined the DCPS scheduling process: their first step is to mark off all of the days that we must have. This includes 180 school days, 13 student breaks, ten government holidays, and two snow days, among other events. In total, this adds up to 220 weekdays, or 44 weeks. Next, DCPS administrators “decide on strategic priorities with calendaring implications”. This means they look at feedback from community members to decide what needs to be changed; for instance, many parents wrote that they didn’t like half days because they created child care issues. Following this, DCPS proceeds to draft a calendar, collect public feedback, and send the final product to the chancellor. 

Administrators claim that all views are taken into consideration when making these calendars because they gauge parent and teacher preferences through surveys and websites. However, most (or all) students haven’t been directly asked for their opinions. Perhaps not saving two days for snow that we never get would save us some time at the end of the year. There are also smaller changes—such as adding one more day for a gentle lead in after breaks, or not having the last day of school on a Monday—that would help make the DCPS schedule a little simpler.

Days off fall arbitrarily, sometimes in the middle of the week, and often for unknown reasons. We appreciate three day weekends just as much as anyone, but there is no apparent reason why professional development days or other necessary days off aren’t tacked onto weekends. For parents with younger students, random days off create child care disruptions that negatively impact work schedules. For older students, they break up the week into uneven days; ruining schedules and canceling certain classes and extracurriculars while falling short of the potential free time provided by a three day weekend. In addition, next school year ends on Monday, June 17, 2024. The reason behind ending school on a Monday is lost on us, as it is unlikely that many students will show up at all. 

The summer provides many social and professional opportunities for students, and as our summers get shorter, the window for jobs and internships closes. Many employers don’t want to hire people with limited schedules. High schoolers often don’t have time for jobs and internships during the school year, making summer the best time to save money and gain work experience.

Even if the summer can’t be extended, there are ways for DCPS to improve their scheduling. Randomly sprinkling days off hurts students, parents, and teachers; without any obvious benefits, it appears unnecessary. To best serve the school community, DCPS should prioritize longer breaks as opposed to individual days off. •