One of the items up for discussion at the policy meeting I attended for our assignment in EDLP 705 had to do with state code § 22.1-79.1, a.k.a. the King’s Dominion Law. This law passed in 1986 requires Virginia schools to start the student school year after Labor Day. Currently, 77 of the 132 school districts have an exemption to start prior to labor day. Henrico believes the extra time the other systems have puts Henrico’s students at a disadvantage on AP, IB, and SOL testing. An article in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch illustrates how the semantics of the written law can be interpreted differently by two side. Nearly all of the other districts have a waiver for weather related reasons. Most are in the western part of the state where snowfall is a bigger issue. Henrico can not justify an exemption based on weather, so it is using option “3″ of the state code which states,
3. A school division is providing its students, in the school year for which the waiver is sought, with an experimental or innovative program which requires an earlier opening date than that established in subsection A of this section and which has been approved by the Department of Education pursuant to the regulations of the Board of Education establishing standards for accrediting public schools. However, any waiver or extension of the school year granted by the Board of Education pursuant to this subdivision or its standards for accrediting public schools for such an experimental or innovative program shall only apply to the opening date for those schools where such experimental or innovative programs are offered generally to the student body of the school. For the purposes of this subdivision, experimental or innovative programs shall include instructional programs that are offered on a year-round basis by the school division in one or more of its elementary or middle or high schools; or
Henrico sees their plan to get ten extra school days prior to the AP, IB, and SOL testing as an “innovative” measure to increase student achievement. They are not requesting to lengthen the year, they would just like to move up the start date. The school board and administration are highly supportive, but it is up to the state to ultimately decide the outcome. It is amazing to me that the fate of this decision lies in the interpretation of one word, INNOVATIVE, that was written in a law more than 20 years ago.
Link to the Richmond Times-Dispatch article here: http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/news/2012/mar/27/tdmet01-henricos-early-school-start-could-meet-res-ar-1796492/