COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P.O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120
SUPTS. MEMO NO. 3
January 12, 2006
Patricia I. Wright
Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction
Waiver of Pre-Labor Day Opening Requirements for 2006-2007
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; approvals for certain alternative schedules. -- 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 10 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 that are offered on a year-round basis by the school division in one or more of its elementary or middle or high schools.
Because these waivers must be approved annually, school divisions that received waivers in previous years must reapply for the 2006-2007 school year. School divisions seeking waivers for inclement weather (and other emergency closures under subsection B.1.), related programs, or previously approved experimental or innovative programs must complete and return the attached application Form PL.001 for approval. In addition, if you are seeking first-time approval of an experimental or innovative program or to operate on a year-round schedule, you will need to complete and return the attached application for a waiver of the standards to operate an experimental or innovative program (Form SA.020). All applications must be submitted to the Division of Policy and Communications no later than March 3, 2006.
School divisions must submit program evaluation reports to this department annually for each previously approved experimental and innovative program, and the department must submit an annual report summarizing these reports to the Board of Education. You will find this years report, submitted to the Board of Education on November 30, 2005,on the departments website at: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/VA_Board/Meetings/2005/ItemL-nov.pdf. In order to receive consistent information from all school divisions and to appropriately assess the effectiveness of these programs, the Board of Education has requested that each school division include in its evaluation report information addressing the following components: Student Achievement, Student Behavior and Attendance, Staff/Teacher Participation, and Parent/Community Involvement. In addition, the report must include a description of the steps taken to achieve or maintain school accreditation. A report form is included in Attachment C. This report must be completed and submitted to the Division of Policy and Communications by August 1, 2006.
Please contact Sandra Peterson, policy analyst in the Division of Policy and Communications, at the above address, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at (804)225-2092 if you have any questions.