ICYMI: Let local schools set their own calendars

BackToSchoolMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot last Thursday. Although I no longer maintain a legislative wishlist, also known as an agenda, I still watch a bunch of bills. One of them was House Bill 333, which would have allowed local school boards to set their own calendars and not be bound by the so-called Kings Dominion law. That law forces them to start school after Labor Day.

With the weather having wreaked havoc on school’s schedules, you would think that this was the year the bill stood a chance of passing. You would be wrong.

The bill passed the House 75-24 but died in the Senate after languishing in the Public Education subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Education and Health. It appeared on the subcommittee’s docket February 21 but didn’t make it to the full committee’s docket for its last meeting February 27. Unlike previous years, there was almost no news coverage of the bill’s demise; this article is about the only one I found.

There was an editorial last Friday, urging the Prince William school board to pursue a waiver of the rule. 78 localities have a waiver already, and a bill to protect those waivers – discussed here –  failed, too.

I get it – by starting after Labor Day, families can spend more time at Kings Dominion.I do have to wonder, though, who is actually working there, since most colleges and universities start before Labor Day. (Interestingly enough, the prohibition on a pre-Labor Day start doesn’t apply to Virginia’s public colleges and universities.)

We didn’t have Kings Dominion when I was a kid. Of course, if memory serves, we didn’t have this much snow, either. One thing I know we didn’t have: Spring Break. We were off Good Friday and Easter Monday – that was it. But we also didn’t have SOLs or any standardized testing. Or computers. Or calculators. Yet, the same 180-day attendance requirement existed then as it does now.

I don’t know how you cram all the new stuff into the same only number of days. Actually, I know you can’t, because I see it every day. I’m amazed daily by what has been omitted from student’s learning.

Virginia has placed a of of burdens on the public schools. This is one that needs to go away.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.