Letter: Tom Marshall, Leesburg

Editor: Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in, let’s say a group of educators, results in ineffectual decision making, especially when the education and safety of students are at risk.  

This may have explained how in Loudoun, as well as the entire metro area, came to similar decisions without serious critical evaluation of alternatives to what they were all doing.Because everybody is doing the same thing these educators have an inflated certainty that they have made the right decision.But as you have seen, dates for implementation have gone back and forth, frustrating parents and students and teachers and school boards are struggling.

Although educators know about year-round education, it is not a typical way to deliver the curriculum. However, 2020-2021 with COVID-19 is also not a typical year. Given the shortage of vaccines and the variant strains of the virus, the future is still uncertain when it comes to the method of education for our students for 2021-22.

Having a year-round school year, using a multitrack system should produce the space needed in classrooms for safety reasons, by reducing the number of students in each class by about 25%, and couple that, with the parents who prefer distance learning regardless of an alternative delivery of instruction, thus providing even more space.A school on a multitrack year-around calendar divides the entire student body and staff into different tracks, usually four tracks.Consequently, at any one time, three of the four tracks are attending class while the fourth is on vacation.In the 45/15 calendar, one track returns from vacation and one track leaves every 15 days. (60/20 is another option). LCPS’ grading periods are about 45 days currently.It is important to note you still have only 180 days of instruction, which is the requirement by the state.I especially like the obvious fact that the loss of retention of information that occurs during the three-month summer vacation is minimized by the shorter, more frequent vacations.

It is time, at the very least, to study this alternative as a back-up plan if the predictions for 2021-22 are bleak or uncertain. It is a lot of planning and a lot of work but we all want our students back in school.

Don’t allow “groupthink” to win the day, at the expense of our children’s educational experience.

Tom Marshall, Leesburg

[Editor’s Note: The writer served two terms representing the Leesburg District on the Loudoun County School Board]

3 thoughts on “Letter: Tom Marshall, Leesburg

  • 2021-02-25 at 3:55 pm
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    Although it sounds convoluted, I think the multi-track system is a great idea. I’ve softly advocated for it for years to no avail whatsoever. To me, it is a great way to fit more kids into a school and therefore reduce the number of schools we need to build so it saves a ton of money. I’d say it can lower our property taxes, but I’ve seen the BoS spend every dollar we save somewhere, so I would expect they would keep our jacked up taxes and spend the money elsewhere. Regardless, the school system could be MUCH more efficient that it is.

  • 2021-02-26 at 9:04 am
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    It is refreshing to hear from a former school board member about EDUCATION and SOLUTIONS versus the sociological, tabloid-like BS we have heard from the currently indecisive school board. Education delayed is education denied and that decreases the EQUITY of all students. Good input Tom – now could you wake up the BOS to start doing their jobs insuring our tax dollars are not wasted and LCPS is forced to consider efficiency as state statute 22.1-79 requires? 🙂

  • 2021-02-27 at 4:28 pm
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    I agree with my two friends Tom Marshall and Bob Ohneiser, both of whom served on the LCPS Board. I have two degrees in Education and have taught as a sub for over 13 years in the LCPS system. In addition I have lived in Germany for many years and see how their system operates year round. It works. Since we have air conditioned schools it should be no problem to teach in them in the hot summer months. The current practice of taking off two and a half months was put in place when we were an agrarian society, it is time for a change, especially with the delays in in person learning education caused by the pandemic. Thanks Bob and Tom for the ideas.

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