FCPS May Be Able to Bend ‘Kings Dominion’ Law

fcps logoFairfax County Public Schools are looking into the waiver in Virginia state law that could allow school to begin here prior to Labor Day.

But don’t cut your summer vacation short just yet.

FCPS officials said that if the system has one more day of school cancelled this year due to inclement weather or an emergency situation — the 11th of the year — the district could apply to the state for a waiver, allowing FCPS to begin school the week prior to Labor Day.

The school system has applied for the waiver in the past to no avail.

FCPS has drafted an alternative calendar in order to give parents and community members an idea of what the calendar would look like if school began on Monday, August 31, and end on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

The alternative calendar is not currently under consideration by the Fairfax County School Board. Any change in the proposed 2015-16 calendar that the School Board will consider at its business meeting on Thursday, March 26, would require further School Board approval, school officials said.

FCPS does not currently qualify for a waiver. In order to apply for a waiver, a school district needs to average eight full days of school lost due to inclement weather, energy shortages, power failures, or other emergency situations in five of the previous 10 years.

The school system said FCPS students missed four days during the 2006-07 school year; 10 days during the 2009-10 school year; four days during the 2010-11 school year; 11 days during the 2013-14 school year; and 10 days during the current school year.

To qualify for the waiver, FCPS must be closed a total of 11 full days during the current school year.

Last year, the board eliminated early release Mondays for elementary school students, which added instructional time and allowed the system to build-in up to 13 allowable snow days.

FCPS follows the Virginia “Kings Dominion” law, a 1986 Virginia statute that mandates school start in September. When the law was passed, it was helped along by the tourism industry, which said it needed students as staffers (and families to keep on vacationing) through Labor Day. Thus, the amusement park moniker.

In almost every Virginia General Assembly session, bills are introduced asking for local school districts to be allowed exemptions from the rule to make their own calendar. In the 2014 session, a Virginia Senate committee passed over a bill that would have allowed local school boards to open for classes before Labor Day. The bill, sponsored by Del. Tag Greason (R-Loudoun), passed easily in the House. In 2015, a bill to repeal the law also failed.

After the 2013-14 school year, which saw 11 snow days and extra days added the end of the school year, the school board voted not to pursue a waiver.

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