COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education
February 26, 2010
TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction
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 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 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, middle or high schools, excluding the electronic classroom, which are dependent on and provided in one or more elementary, 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 2010-2011 school year. School divisions seeking waivers for inclement weather and other emergency closures (B.1.), related programs (B.2), or previously approved experimental or innovative programs (B.3), must apply to the Superintendent of Public Instruction for approval.
The Department continues to use an electronic data collection instrument, using the Single Sign-on for Web Systems (SSWS) for Pre-Labor Day waiver approval. (The SSWS is a portal through which authorized school division personnel may access many of the Department of Education’s data collection processes and other applications.) The following suggestions will help to expedite your application:
- The school division’s pre-Labor Day waiver contact person.
- Any school division staff responsible for entering or reviewing data.
School divisions will be able to submit a waiver application for approval only if the above items are in place.
Please follow the additional information below related to entering data:
Experimental or Innovative Programs
First-time Approval: A form for initial approval of an innovative or experimental program is available through the link below. Please note that, if you are seeking first-time approval of an experimental or innovative program, you will need to complete and return this form for a waiver of the standards to operate an experimental or innovative program. All such applications must be submitted to the Office of Policy as soon as possible for the 2010-2011 school year. School divisions requesting first-time approval must provide a presentation to the Board of Education regarding the need for the program, as the Board must approve your request. The Office of Policy is available to provide technical assistance to any school division requesting an experimental or innovative program.
In previous years, school divisions with experimental, innovative, and year-round school programs have been required to submit annual program evaluation reports to this Department using the SSWS application system.
In an effort to ease the administrative burden on school divisions at a time when school divisions are dealing with state and local budget reductions, the Department will not require submission of this report for the 2010-2011 school year.
Please contact the Office of Policy by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at (804)225-2092 if you have any questions.