ICYMI: Another tool in the school toolbox

Norfolk Schools appleMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot last Thursday. In it, I discuss House Bill 1585, which was introduced by my delegate, Chris Stolle.

Stolle’s bill seeks to add two alternative schedules to Va. Code § 22.1-79.1. One would allow the operation of year-round schools, a trend in education. A report by the Congressional Research Service shows that the number of year-round schools has increased by roughly 26 percent since 2007.

The other would allow local school boards to determine the opening date of the school year. Each option would be available to any school that failed to achieve full accreditation, or districtwide if more than 15 percent of schools were not fully accredited.

Stolle introduced a similar bill last year, which, after passing the House, died in a Senate subcommittee. I’m told the reason was that it was lumped in with bills that repealed the so-called “Kings Dominion Law.” That provision prohibits the start of the school year prior to Labor Day, unless the school district is granted a waiver. Stolle’s bill doesn’t repeal the law, but adds a couple more options to the alternative schedules portion of it.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, 32 percent of the state’s public schools lacked fully accredited status. In Norfolk, that number approaches 70 percent.

Thirteen of Norfolk’s 44 schools were fully accredited after the last round of testing. Over half – 25 – were accredited with warning, while one was conditionally accredited and five were denied accreditation. This has to change.

Like elected school boards, no one thing can turn the tide in Norfolk. But combined with other tools, I think things can move forward.

Pass this bill.

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.