Superintendent's Memo #263-10

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education

October 29, 2010

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: New Requirements for Pre-Labor Day Opening

Section 22.1-79.1 of the Code of Virginia states that: "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."

Prior to July 1, 2010, the Board of Education could waive the requirement stated above and permit school divisions to open prior to Labor Day if one of the "good cause" provisions listed in this same section of the Code were met. A school division had to apply for a waiver and receive approval from the Board.

House Bill 557 and Senate Bill 253 were passed by the 2010 General Assembly and amended § 22.1-79.1 of the Code. Effective July 1, 2010, the Code now permits school divisions to self-certify that they meet one of the "good cause" provisions of the Code to enable the school division to open prior to Labor Day. Section 22.1-79.1 now reads as follows:

  1. 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 based on a school board certifying that it meets one of the good cause requirements of subsection B. (emphasis added)

  2. 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....

School divisions are no longer required to submit a request for approval to open prior to Labor Day. Instead, school divisions will be required to self-certify that one of the options cited in § 22.1-79.1.B has been met as part of the Standards of Quality (SOQ) compliance process, which is posted every spring. School divisions will receive information related to this self-certification in the Superintendent's Memorandum that will be issued regarding the SOQ compliance data collection process in the spring of 2011.

School divisions will only be required to submit an application to the Board for approval to open prior to Labor Day for the establishment of new innovative, experimental, or year-round programs. Requests for the approval of new innovative, experimental, or year-round programs that would be operational in the 2011-2012 school year must be submitted to the Board no later than March 31, 2011. Please contact the Office of Policy for more information on this application process.

You may contact the Office of Policy at (804) 225-2092, or by e-mail at policydata@doe.virginia.gov, if you have any questions regarding this matter.

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