Let It Snow…Let it Snow….Let It Snow!
Ah, the announcements on the radios and televisions across Virginia from December through March telling students and staff that schools will be closed due to __________ (fill-in your own favorite reason) offer a respite from the daily/weekly routine. For many divisions, these days have already been accounted for and therefore they are taken in stride. Other division administrators shake their heads and begin to look at lost spring break days, sports schedules and testing issues.
This blog entry is for those school divisions and administrators that do not have the option of opening school prior to Labor Day based on where you live in the Commonwealth of Virginia. For most educators who reside West of I 95, your school divisions may be granted the option to start before Labor Day while those on the other side of the “Great Divide” generally do not have this option. This issue has been a part of the education landscape in Virginia for several years. It has been discussed and cussed by those affected by the guidelines, but the basic law has only been modified, not changed to meet the desires of school divisions who are “geographically challenged” due their location in Virginia.
In its original inception, the Code of Virginia established that school calendars could be modified to open prior to Labor Day based on a school board certifying that their request met a “good cause”. The original good cause was listed as missing an average of 8 or more school days per year in 5 out of the previous 10 school years due to weather, power failures, energy shortages or other emergency situations. It has been modified to include school divisions with schools tied into neighboring school divisions having programs in divisions with early opening waivers, schools with special programs that require an earlier beginning date than after Labor Day, and most recently, permission for a division which is entirely surrounded by a school division that has an opening date prior to Labor Day. In other words, the process to change to an early opening before Labor Day is like filing for income taxes, complex and rather convoluted.
There may be, however, some new energy focused on this issue soon and we may be looking at a new dawn of the era of equality of thought related to the application of common sense and not ties to tourism economics. At its September 23 meeting, one member of the Virginia Board of Education, Rob Krupika, let it be known that he was opposed to this arrangement. He shared an outline map of counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia which clearly shows the West/East divide with respect to school division opening dates. He seems very aware of the financial impact and political barriers to opening before Labor Day, and the resulting disparity of school opening dates. However, allowing businesses to lobby in the General Assembly to mandate school operations is unacceptable and it is time for a change. Stay tuned and if you live east of I 95, contact your state legislators to express your concerns.