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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

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

Equestrian clinic planned July 7-8 in Henrico

Henrico equestrians interested in deepening the bond between themselves and their horses have the opportunity to attend a two day clinic, held at Steppin’ High Stables on July 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic, “Become Partners with your Horse,” will be taught by multiple world champion equestrienne Terry Preiser and will focus on how riders and horses can work together to achieve more. > Read more.

Henrico school bus driver honored

The Henrico-based Hephaestus Society recently awarded its first annual community heroes award (the Hephaestus Award) to Hicham Elgharouch (pictured, center) for what it termed his "selfless acts of caring" in his duties as a Henrico County Public Schools bus driver. Henrico County Director of Pupil Transportation Josh Davis, joined Hephaestus Society President Travis Gardner, in presenting the award and an accompanying $1,500 check to Elgharouch last month.

Elgharouch was selected for his clear and demonstrated patience and for his infectious positive attitude, according to the society. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Grab the kids and check out these fun family-friendly events taking place this weekend! Speed over to the Henrico Theatre for the film “Turbo” or watch “Dumbo” under the stars at Clarke-Palmore House Museum. Little ones can meet Thomas the Tank Engine at CMOR-Central or play at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Don’t party too hard on the Fourth because a whole weekend of fun events await! Enjoy a classy date night without the kids at James River Cellars Winery’s second annual Smoke and Vine Festival. Another date night option is at the Richmond Funny Bone, where comedian April Macie will perform all weekend. The kids have their own options this weekend as well. Choose from storytime at Tuckahoe and Twin Hickory libraries or family-oriented karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House – I hear they have hits from Disney’s “Frozen.” 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.

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