COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P. O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120
SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 13
January 22, 1999

INFORMATIONAL

TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Paul D. Stapleton
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Waiver of Pre-Labor Day Opening Requirements for 1999-2000
  Section 22.1-79.1 of the Code of Virginia prohibits the
  opening of schools prior to Labor Day unless a waiver is
  issued by the Board of Education for good cause.  The
  1998 General Assembly amended the statute to define "good
  cause" for granting waivers.  The amended statute reads
  as follows:

     22.1-79.1.  Opening of the school year. -- A. Each
     local school board shall set the school calendar so
     that the first day students are required to attend
     school shall be after Labor Day. The Board of Education
     may waive this requirement on a showing of good cause.

     B. For purposes of this section, "good cause"        
        means:

          1.   A school division has been closed an       
               average of eight days per year during any  
               five of the last ten years because of      
               severe weather conditions, energy          
               shortages, power failures, or other        
               emergency situations;

          2.   A school division is providing, in the school   
               year for which the waiver is sought, an         
               instructional program or programs in one or
               more of its elementary or middle or high
               schools, excluding the electronic classroom,
               which are dependent on and provided in one or
               more elementary or middle or high schools of
               another school division that qualifies  for
               such waiver.  However, any waiver granted by
               the Board of Education pursuant to this
               subdivision shall only apply to the opening
               date for those schools where such dependent
               programs are provided;   or


          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 which are offered on a year-round
               basis by the school division in one or
               more of its elementary or middle or high
               schools.


  We anticipate that again this year, legislation will be
  considered to repeal or amend this provision and that any
  amendments may change the criteria for issuing waivers. 
  Depending on General Assembly action, we hope to finalize
  this process by April 1.

  School divisions wishing to apply for a waiver must
  complete and return the attached application form by
  March 15, 1999 to Charles W. Finley, Director of
  Accreditation, Division of Accountability Services. 
  School divisions that received waivers in previous years 
  must reapply for the 1999-2000 school year.  If you have
  questions, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Finley
  at (804) 786-9421 or by e-mail to cfinley@pen.k12.va.us.


  PDS/cwf

  Attachment:  A hard copy of this memo and its attach-
               ment will be sent to the superintendent's
               office.