After a year of wrenching debate, Fairfax County teachers, parents and school officials have reached an agreement to end by next year the policy of closing elementary schools early on Mondays.

But the $13.4 million price tag for the plan, which was unanimously approved by a School Board-appointed committee late Thursday, has generated political sparks at a time when principals are already preparing to cut textbooks and supplies in the face of a bleak budgetary forecast.

"In light of the budget, it seems ludicrous that we're thinking about this now," said Maureen Daniels, president of the 6,800-member Fairfax Education Association. "To fund this, we're talking about robbing Peter to pay Paul."

School Superintendent Robert R. Spillane declined to comment on the plan until he receives the report Sept. 18. He is expected to present his recommendation to the School Board Oct. 11, and after public hearings, the board will vote Nov. 15.

The Monday elementary school day is now 4 to 4 1/2 hours long, instead of the usual 6 1/2, to allow teachers time for lesson planning. Under the plan beginning next September, students will spend the additional 2 to 2 1/2 hours studying academic subjects along with art, music and physical education. Teachers will have planning time when their students are in these special classes.

Most of the funding required would go to hire 317 teachers to relieve classroom teachers of the art and physical education responsibilities that they now have.

"It's not giving the schools more to do," said school official Rachel Verville, who headed the committee. "It's giving them more time to do what they say they want to do."

Daniels, whose union vigorously campaigned against any change last year, said she accepted the compromise because teachers will be guaranteed time to plan with their colleagues. She and other committee members insisted the plan be fully funded or not done at all.

The School Board voted last November to eliminate Monday early closings to increase classroom time for students and ease day-care problems for parents. But the board postponed the change until next fall because of the cost. The latest plan is 50 percent more expensive than earlier estimates.

Although some board members now believe that lengthening Mondays is not affordable, Spillane and School Board Chairman Kohann Whitney insist it can be done.

In an interview last month, Spillane suggested phasing in the change by extending Mondays as planned but adding extra teachers over three to five years.

Students will spend half of the extra 2 1/2 hours with their classroom teachers studying English, history, mathematics and science. The remaining time will include 30 to 45 minutes with special resource teachers and about 15 more minutes each in art, music and physical education.

Kindergarten would become a uniform three hours daily, adding an hour on Monday and shaving 15 minutes from each of the other four days. Kindergartners would spend the same number of hours in class that they now do but would have two more hours of art, music and physical education each week to give their regular teachers planning time.

Panel member Marjorie Bernardi Goldin said she was thrilled that her two children at Wolftrap Elementary School might get more music, but not if it means budget tradeoffs. "If I had the choice between cutting textbooks and keeping {Monday} the way it is," she said, "I'd keep it the way it is."