State denies early-start request
Henrico County's request to the State Board of Education for the right to open school before Labor Day was rejected late last month, in a decision that was anticipated by – but still disappointing to – county officials.
The board voted to follow the recommendation of Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright, who concluded that Henrico did not make a compelling enough argument that it deserved the right under state code. To earn a waiver allowing it to open school before Labor Day, a Virginia school system must show "good cause" - typically a weather-related need or implementation of year-round school, for example.
Henrico had argued that its waiver would create an innovate academic environment and allow the system to align with the schedule of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College to provide more dual-credit opportunities for students.
Henrico Superintendent Pat Russo said he believed that while a number of members of the state board wanted to vote in favor of Henrico's request, "they felt their hands were tied" by the code's language.
"I don't want you to feel that your efforts were wasted," School Board Chairwoman Diana Winston told the school officials who had helped research and craft the request. "We'll find [another way]."
That other way could come from the General Assembly, if it votes to grant the right to open early either to Henrico or to all remaining state school divisions that lack such a right. A Senate committee earlier this year killed a proposal supported by Gov. Bob McDonnell that sought to revoke the so-called "Kings Dominion law" and grant the right to localities.
In Virginia – a Dillon Rule state – localities lack the power to take any actions that are not specifically granted to them by the state legislature.
Seventy-seven school districts in the state have been granted the right to open before Labor Day, but 55 localities do not have that right. Henrico was the first to have its waiver request denied.
Citizen Staff Reports 07/18/2016
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