Mark your calendars, more local flexibility to school start dates potentially coming soon

February 19, 2019

As in previous years, several school calendar bills were introduced with the intent of giving local school divisions greater autonomy over determining the opening of the school calendar year. These bills subvert the existing so-called “King’s Dominion Law,” which mandates that local school divisions start after Labor Day unless they are eligible to apply for a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education after missing eight days in a school year and other circumstances. The law was originally created to aid the tourism industry by ensuring that summer extended to Labor Day, however advocates for overturning the provision often cite the need for increased local flexibility and an earlier school start date to help students prepare for assessments.

HB 1652 (Robinson) / SB 1005 (Chase) allow local school boards to set the opening day of the school year no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day and grandfathers existing “good cause” scenarios for which the Board of Education has granted waivers allowing for school openings prior to Labor Day. Schools must be closed the Friday before Labor Day, except for school divisions that granted a waiver via 2012 Acts of Assembly. These schools have the option to close or remain open on that Friday.

In short, localities where schools currently have start dates before Labor Day will see little impact. Localities that have school divisions currently starting school after Labor Day have the option to start two weeks prior with the condition that school is closed the Friday before Labor Day weekend.

These bills are on their way to the Governor’s desk and have the potential to overturn 34 years of existing policy enacted after passage of the King’s Dominion Law.

VACo Contact: Jeremy Bennett

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