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Must I attend meetings during my planning period?


Q: I am often required to perform duties or attend meetings during my planning period. Is that legal?

A: You ask an important question at a critical time. In January, the State Board of Education ran hearings to elicit comments on accreditation standards-including requirements for secondary teacher planning time. 

State statute requires planning time for middle and high school teachers. A section of the Standards of Quality, Virginia Code section 22.1-253.13:2C reads, in part: "school divisions shall provide all middle and high school teachers with one planning period per day or the equivalent, unencumbered of any teaching or supervisory duties."   

The State Board of Education implements the statutory planning requirement in Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia. 8VAC 20-131-240 requires daily planning time for most middle and secondary school teachers on the traditional seven-period schedule. In January, VEA members across the Commonwealth submitted comment to the State Board of Education and testified at public hearings about the accreditation standards. One proposed revision to the regulation on middle and secondary teacher planning time would match the statutory language requiring one period per day "or the equivalent" for planning. The change is considered necessary in light of the number of school divisions using alternatives to the traditional school schedule. 
 
Planning time for elementary school teachers is an aspiration but not required by state law. Virginia Code section 22.1-291.1 provides that: "each school board shall seek to ensure that all elementary school teachers in its employment are provided at least three hours during the students' school week  as planning time." 

Your local school board can also adopt policy assuring teaching planning time. Your UniServ Director can help you review statutes, regulations, and local school board policy; consider whether your right to planning time has been  violated; take action to record or respond to infringements on your planning time; and work with other Association members to urge your school board to provide and protect teacher planning time. 

I am glad you consulted the Association and urge you to follow up with your UniServ Director. We look forward to helping you protect your time to plan quality instruction.

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