by Theo Lebryk
The 2015-2016 school year is slated to start on Sept. 8, the latest possible start date. Under the so called “Kings Dominion Law,” Virginia school systems are forced to start the first Tuesday after Labor Day.
The law was originally pushed through in large measure due to the support of the Virginia tourism industry, thus the Kings Dominion moniker. Lobbyists wanted to extend summer vacation so Virginia industries wouldn’t lose the extra weeks of seasonal high school workers nor the increase in demand for tourism industries that school vacation causes.
“It’s a bad law,” Welch said. “To me, it’s ridiculous to handcuff school districts on how much time we can do in school based on a vacation schedule.”
Loudoun and Prince William County received a waiver due to inclement weather this year and will start on Aug. 31 according to the fairfaxtimes.com. FCPS needed one more snow day this year to qualify for the waiver. The county would need to cancel school five times next year to meet the requirement of averaging eight snow days in five of the past 10 school years. Labor Day for the 2016-2017 school year lands on Sept. 5, the third latest possible start date.
As recently as 2008, Stuart was able to start before Labor Day through a waiver for “experimental or innovative” programs. Stuart and Falls Church were among the schools able to utilize the earlier start times to get more instructional time in before SOL, AP and IB tests began.
FCPS, however, moved to a consistent schedule in 2008 in which all schools start in accordance with the King’s Dominion Law.
“Where are our priorities that we require kids to come in August for sports but not for math, science, social studies and other academic subjects?” Welch said.
In 2010, Time Magazine found that “summer learning loss could be blamed for roughly two-thirds of the achievement gap separating income groups.” According to a 2011 Slate Magazine article, Virginia and Michigan are the only two states where school must start after Labor Day.
“There’s no question a school like us could benefit from an earlier start,” said government teacher Eric Welch.