One (of many) responsibilities I carry out for my school division is the development of our division-wide school calendar for the upcoming school year. This requires me to work along with the other three regional school divisions including Henrico, Hanover and Chesterfield counties. This consortium is called the Regional Metro Calendar committee. The committee discusses calendar activities and attempts to align our school calendars on major holidays and breaks. This includes the alignment of calendars for the start of the school year, or the first day of school for students.
Currently, VA state law (§ 22.1-79.1.) makes the agreement on the first day of school an easy decision for me and my counterparts to make. We refer to this law as the “Kings Dominion Rule”. Essentially, the law states that each local school board shall set the school calendar so that the first day for students will be after Labor Day. A recent house bill, House Bill No. 15, threatens to disrupt this once mundane calendar alignment decision. This new bill would allow school divisions the option to start school before Labor Day, without state board approval. Current provisions require approval from the state school board and certain conditions must be met.
My concern (as well as others on the Regional Calendar committee) is that this change would make it a much more difficult task to align school calendars among the four major local school divisions. The significance of alignment of our school calendars is to: (1) make it more convenient for parents who work for one school division, while their children attend a different division, to be out of school at the same time during school breaks; and (2) to allow for a smoother transition for students that move between divisions at the end of, or near the end of, a semester or marking period.
If this law changes, some school divisions may desire to start school much sooner, or even consider becoming a year-round school, which may not be feasible or desirable for the other divisions to consider. From what I hear so far, the bill is likely to die (if not already dead) in the House. Some may consider the proposed changes to the “Kings Dominion Rule” insignificant, but with an upcoming election season the option of a year-round school could almost certainly be used as a platform for some candidates’ election or reelection bid.