Fairfax County Public Schools Board

8115 Gatehouse Road

Falls Church, VA 22042

 

March 1st, 2021

Dear FCPS Board Members,

Thank you for relentlessly managing a challenging pandemic environment and making sure that our children have an effective virtual/in-person learning environment.  With the 2021-2022 school year planning activities coming to the forefront, we applaud that you have proactively worked on the calendar topic and recently added a third calendar option (Version C) to alleviate the pandemic impact.  In this letter, we provide our feedback on the three proposed versions of 2021-2022 school calendar, on behalf of the Chinese American Parents Association-NoVA (CAPA-NoVA), a 501c3 non-profit organization.

We support Calendar Version C (180 instructional days, an August 23-June 20 school year, and no additional religious holidays).  Compared to the other Versions (A/B) we believe that Version C recognizes the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on our broader community and ensures that our students have more continuous instructional days while minimizing any negative consequences on the workload and financial burden of our school workers and parents.  Version C does not include any non-statutory religious holidays and eliminates the potential risks of favoring certain religions but excluding other diverse groups (e.g. families with no religion or a different religion, culture, ethnicity, race, etc.).  Furthermore, survey results from FCPS employees and families also support Version C, as ~70% voted to have the school year end by the first two weeks of June.  Last week we have also conducted a survey of our CAPA-NovA members and related associations and received support from 92% of the 63 survey participants (see the Appendix for details).

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Regarding Calendar Version A and B, we would like to share our concerns and solutions for your review and consideration:

1) Risk of favoritism: As a community we should recognize and celebrate diversity and inclusion, including religious beliefs and many other forms. We are appreciative of the spirit and positive intent of this action, and there are many effective ways to achieve this positive intent. However, Calendar Version A or B adds four religious holidays that are significant to some but not to others, which could jeopardize the true diversity and inclusion principle and result in the risk of favoritism in our school system.

Solution:  Recognize and celebrate diversity in all forms through diversity or cultural events and other channels.  Be inclusive by allowing families to opt in and out of these events.  For families with religious or other significant needs of diversity that require school absence, provide them channels to work with teachers to get learning materials and do make-ups.

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2) Risk of increased learning disruption: Many of our students have been struggling with learning in the pandemic environment.  Adding four more holidays will further disrupt our students’ learning activities and negatively impact the effectiveness of our teachers.  Our own experience suggests an effective learning comes from focus and momentum and more frequent breaks is disruptive to the teaching and learning pattern.

Solution:  Version C reduces the above risk.

3) Risk of increased financial burden: Under Version A or B, our working parents will have to bear the financial burden of taking unpaid leave or eating into paid-leave at inopportune times to take care of their children. Our school hourly workers will experience earning disruptions which would increase their financial stress.  Many of our FCPS families have already been financially impacted by the unprecedented pandemic, so it is not prudent to introduce this additional financial burden to our families.

Solution:  Version C reduces the above risk.

4) Statutory holidays: Version A or B mandates the entire community support non-statutory holidays. These versions could be challenged from the legal stand. In fact, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1999 that public schools are limited to celebrating holidays with both secular and religious significance. Thus, for example, it would not be appropriate to celebrate Easter in the public schools, but it would be appropriate to recognize Thanksgiving.

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Solution:  Version C eliminates this risk. Also see our solution in 1) in supporting diversity and inclusivity

In summary, we believe that Calendar Version C provides a more balanced approach in serving our students and the broader community and minimizing the potential risks from Version A/B.   Thank you for your review and consideration of our feedback and recommendations.

We have scheduled a meeting with Ms. Rachna Sizemore Heizer on March 8th at 4pm and would like to seek her perspectives.  We also look forward to hearing back from the Board.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to the following email addresses if you have any questions or would like to discuss further.

Yuyan Zhou: whyzgm@gmail.com

Lisa Wu: lisawu83@hotmail.com

Respectfully,

 

Yuyan Zhou, President of CAPA-NoVA

Jun Wang, Vice President of CAPA-NoVA

Jay Song, Vice President of CAPA-NoVA

Appendix:  Survey Results of CAPA-NoVA Members and Related Associations

Survey Period: Feb 21-26, 2021

# of Participants Support this Letter? % of Total
58 Yes 92%
5 No 8%
Total   100%

 

 

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Jay Song
Jay Song
3 years ago

Very nice!

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