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.
The grand opening of The Rink outdoor ice skating rink at West Broad Village will be held Saturday, Nov. 14, beginning at 11 a.m. with skating and family activities. At 4 p.m., grand opening festivities – featuring exhibitions of ice sculpting, ice skating and cheering, as well as fire pits, costumed characters, and food vendors – will begin. Skating costs are $8 for children and $10 for adults, with $4 skate rentals available. Parking is free. The Rink is located at 3939 Duckling Drive, Glen Allen. For details, visit http://www.Facebook.com/TheRinkWBV > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 11/09/2015
Looking for a Virginia-grown Christmas tree this year? You can find a list of all locations that offer trees in the 2015 Virginia Grown Christmas Tree Guide, published by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) in cooperation with the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association. The guide is designed as a resource for finding choose-and-cut, fresh-cut and live Christmas trees across the state. Complimentary copies are available through tourist information centers, libraries and Virginia Cooperative Extension offices.
“Most choose-and-cut tree farms and retail lots open the Friday after Thanksgiving,” said VDACS Commissioner Sandra J. Adams. > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
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