Superintendent's Memo #098-11

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education

April 8, 2011

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Waiver Requests for Pre-Labor Day Openings for 2011-2012

As school divisions prepare their school calendars for the 2011-2012 school year, this memorandum is issued to remind school division staff of the changes in the law governing pre-Labor Day waiver requests pursuant to action taken during the 2010 and 2011 General Assembly Sessions.

Prior to July 1, 2010, a school division interested in a pre-Labor Day waiver had to submit a waiver request to the Board of Education which would approve the waiver and permit a school division to open prior to Labor Day if at least one of the three “good cause” provisions listed in § 22.1-79.1 of the Code of Virginia was met.  House Bill 557 and Senate Bill 253, passed by the 2010 General Assembly, amended § 22.1-79.1 of the Code.   As of July 1, 2010, pursuant to these bills, the Code was revised to permit a school division to self-certify that it meets one or more of the three “good cause” provisions of the Code to enable a school division to open prior to Labor Day.  With that change § 22.1-79.1 reads, in part, 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....

Therefore, school divisions are no longer required to submit a request for a waiver to open prior to Labor Day with one exception:  experimental, innovative, or year-round programs referenced in Option 3 of § 22.1-79.1.B.3.  Instead, school divisions will be required to self-certify that one or more of the options cited in § 22.1-79.1.B has been met as part of the Standards of Quality (SOQ) compliance data collection process.  School divisions will receive information related to this self-certification process in a Superintendent’s Memorandum that will be issued regarding the SOQ compliance data collection process shortly.  Information submitted as part of the self-certification process will be reviewed by this Department and, if it does not comport with department records, school divisions will be contacted for clarification regarding compliance.

New Experimental or Innovative Programs

School divisions will be required to submit an application to the Board for approval to open prior to Labor Day only for the establishment of new innovative, experimental, or year-round programs.  As specified in Superintendent's  Memorandum #263-10  issued on October 29, 2010, requests for the approval of new innovative, experimental, or year-round programs that will be operational in the 2011-2012 school year should have been submitted to the Board no later than March 31, 2011.

First-time Approval:  A form for initial approval of an innovative, experimental, or year-round program is available through the link below. Please note that, if you are seeking first-time approval of an experimental, innovative, or year-round program, you should have completed and returned this form for a waiver by March 31, 2011. 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 a waiver for these programs.

Option 4 – A New Option for the Pre-Labor Day Waiver Process

During the 2011 General Assembly Session, HB 1483 was approved.  Effective July 1, 2011, this bill amends the language in § 22.1-79.1.B  to include Option 4 which allows a school division to be granted a waiver from the post-Labor Day school opening schedule when it is entirely surrounded by a school division that has an opening date prior to Labor Day in the school year for which the waiver is sought.  Such school division may open schools on the same opening date as the surrounding school division which is opening prior to Labor Day.  This bill will impact only a very limited number of school divisions that meet this criterion.  The language in this option reads:

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

4. A school division is entirely surrounded by a school division that has an opening date prior to Labor Day in the school year for which the waiver is sought. Such school division may open schools on the same opening date as the surrounding school division….

Approval of a Waiver for a School Division Entirely Surrounded by Another School Division

First-time Approval:  Option 4 will be included in the self-certification process.  Any school division seeking to use this option for the 2011-2012 school year must notify the department that it plans to do so by letter by April 30, 2011.  The letter of request for this waiver must be signed by the superintendent and the chairman of the school board and submitted to the Board of Education by fax at 804-530-4502, or by e-mail at policydata@doe.virginia.gov.  The office of policy is available to provide technical assistance to any school division requesting a waiver under this provision of the Code.

Please contact the office of policy at (804) 225-2092, or by e-mail at policydata@doe.virginia.gov, if you have any questions regarding these issues.

PIW/SGP/kfg

Attachment:

  1. Form: Request for Waiver of Certain Accrediting Standards and/or Approval of an Innovative or Experimental Program (Word)