Momentum builds to let schools open before Labor Day

Parents should think twice about scheduling a family vacation at the end of August or in early September.

Gov. Robert McDonnell wants to give Virginia school systems the authority to start classes before Labor Day.

McDonnell has proposed repealing Virginia’s so-called “Kings Dominion law,” which prohibits public schools from opening before Labor Day unless they obtain a waiver from the state.

Such waivers have become commonplace: Of the 132 school districts in Virginia, 77 of them received a waiver for this school year.

“So now the exception has become the rule,” McDonnell said at a news conference outlining his education agenda for the 2012 legislative session. “When that happens, it seems like the rule should be modified.”

The Republican governor acknowledged that repealing the Kings Dominion law will have a dramatic impact on the tourism industry.

That industry – including theme parks such as Kings Dominion in Hanover County – traditionally has sought to prevent schools from opening before Labor Day.

However, local officials say they should have the authority to set their school calendars as they see fit.

Beginning school in early September instead of late August puts students at a disadvantage because they don’t have as much time to prepare for standardized national tests, according to the Virginia School Boards Association. The group supports repealing the Kings Dominion law.

“We stand ready to work with you to get that done,” Joan Wodiska, the association’s president, said at McDonnell’s press conference on Monday.

“Much has changed in the nearly three decades since the passage of the Labor Day Law. This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated and unnecessary state mandate. In fact, today, the state Labor Day law directly conflicts with Virginia’s economic and educational goals. It must be repealed,” said Wodiska, who chairs the Falls Church City School Board.

McDonnell isn’t the only state official clamoring to remove the pre-Labor Day restrictions. Legislators so far have filed eight bills to address the issue.

Four of the bills would eliminate the Labor Day rule entirely and make local school boards “responsible for setting the school calendar and determining the opening of the school year.” They are:
House Bill 15, sponsored by Delegate Gregory Habeeb, R-Salem.

HB 86, by Delegate Thomas Greason, R-Lansdowne (Loudoun County).

HB 113, by Delegate Joseph Morrissey, D-Richmond.

HB 434, by Delegate Robert Tata, R-Virginia Beach.

Four other bills would modify but not eliminate the school calendar restrictions:

HB 43, also by Tata, would allow schools to start classes “no earlier than two weeks prior to Labor Day and no later than the day after Labor Day.”

HB 254, proposed by Delegate Christopher Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, would let classes begin “no earlier than one week before Labor Day.”

HB 602, sponsored by Delegate James LeMunyon, R-Chantilly, would allow schools to open “no earlier than the fourth Monday in August.”

And HB 591, by Delegate Donald Merricks, R-Chatham, would remove the post-Labor Day rule for the public schools in Henry County, Pittsylvania County and the city of Martinsville.

The bills will be considered by the House Education Committee.

To track or comment on the school calendar legislation, visit RichmondSunlight.com.
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RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.

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The project:HOMES "Renew Crew" (above) recently assisted an elderly member of the Laurel Presbyterian Church in Henrico by clearing brush, trimming hedges and raking leaves in her yard.

The Renew Crew serves low-income, disabled and elderly homeowners in need of small-scale home repairs such as porch, railing and step repairs, exterior painting, clearing overgrown yards, tearing down outbuildings, wheelchair ramps and other critical repairs and accessibility modifications. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


The past couple of days haven’t felt like it, but it’s finally December and this weekend is packed with holiday events. Kicking the weekend off is Glorious Christmas Nights’ production of “Finding Christmas” at West End Assembly of God. Gayton Baptist Church’s annual Jazz Nativity starts tonight. Another annual favorite is tomorrow – the tree lighting at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. In search of Christmas concerts? The Virginians Barbershop Chorus will present its annual Christmas Show tomorrow at the Collegiate School and the Richmond Choral Society will perform Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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Henricus Historical Park will present Sir Thomas Dale’s Colonial Christmas at Henricus from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. This event will feature first-person character interpretation of the etiquette, norms, customs, and laws regarding Christmas in Elizabethan-Jacobean English households in the early 17th-century. Experience holiday traditions of different socio-economic homes and enjoy period dance and song in the hospital. Admission is free. For details, visit http://www.henricus.org. Full text

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