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Bills would let schools start before labor day

Lawmakers from across Virginia are pushing a half-dozen bills this legislative session to let public schools start classes before Labor Day.

Delegate Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, is among legislators sponsoring bills to repeal Virginia’s “King’s Dominion law,” which prevents local schools from opening before Labor Day unless they get special permission from the state.

Kory’s proposal, House Bill 1491, “makes local school boards responsible for setting the school calendar and determining the opening day of the school year.”

Currently, school boards can start classes before Labor Day only if they show “good cause” (such as a history of snow-related school closings) and get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education.

Kory, who has been a PTA leader in Northern Virginia and a member of the Fairfax County School Board, said schools should have the power to set their academic calendars.

“There are a lot of options and program decisions that school systems cannot take advantage of if they are forced to wait until after Labor Day to start their school year,” she said.

Schools must wait because of a law passed by the General Assembly in 1986. Nicknamed the “King’s Dominion law,” after the theme park in Hanover County, it was intended to help Virginia’s tourism industry.

Critics say the “King’s Dominion law” puts Virginia students at a disadvantage. For example, they might not have as much class time as students in other states to prepare for college entrance exams and other standardized tests.

There have been repeated attempts to repeal the current restrictions and give school boards the option of holding classes before Labor Day. Last year, the General Assembly considered 13 bills to empower school divisions to choose their own opening dates – an idea backed by Gov. Bob McDonnell. However, none of the bills passed.

Kory hopes the outcome will be different this year.

HB 1491 would not affect school division budgets because it would not change the number of class days or the length of the school day.

Kory says it’s unfair for the state to dictate how local school boards must set their school calendars.

“In the state Constitution, school boards are described as the elected body that is responsible for all aspects of the K-12 public school system. It’s a little inconsistent for the state to decide that one of the few powers that the state has chosen to take away from the locally elected school boards is when you can start school,” Kory said.

Kory is sponsoring several other education-related bills. They include HB 1894, which would forbid schools from starting instruction and other academic activities before 8 a.m.

Bills to rescind ‘King’s Dominion Law’

Six bills have been filed in the House to let school boards start classes before Labor Day. All of the bills have been assigned to the Teachers and Administrative Action Subcommittee of the House Education Committee. The bills are:

• House Bill 1309, by Delegate Barbara Comstock, D-McLean

• HB 1310, by Delegate Gregory Habeeb, R-Salem

• HB 1319, by Delegate Donald Merricks, R-Chatham. (His bill would apply only to Danville, Martinsville, Henry County and Pittsylvania County.)

• HB 1467, by Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Lansdowne

• HB 1491, by Delegate Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church

• HB 1880, Delegate Joseph Morrissey, D-Highland Springs

In the Senate, Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke, also has filed a measure to let school boards decide whether to open before Labor Day. His proposal, Senate Bill 1099, has been referred to the Senate Education and Health Committee.


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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Springfield Park Elementary School PTA’s Spring Carnival will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the school, 4301 Fort McHenry Pkwy. There will be games, crafts, bounce houses,… Full text

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