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 This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated and unnecessary state mandate.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 It must be repealed,” said Wodiska, who chairs the Falls Church City School Board.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.
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
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.
‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.
But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.
That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
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