Editorial: Staggered Starts

Loudoun County schools opened Monday and the Virginia economy seemed to weather the storm just fine. It isn’t a pre-Labor Day class calendar that can be blamed for the state government’s under-performing revenue projections.

Students in three of Loudoun’s neighboring jurisdictions got a bigger head start. Students in Fauquier County and Jefferson County, WV, are in their third week of classes. Clarke County students got back to work a week ago. Prince William schools, like Loudoun’s, opened Monday. Only Fairfax County students are still enjoying their sleep-late summer schedule after their school board opted to maintain the traditional post-Labor Day start; however, they’re already on notice that next year’s classes will start earlier.

Each of those Virginia school districts is allowed to open before Labor Day this year only because they qualified for a weather-related exemption to the General Assembly’s Kings Dominion Law. Unless school districts rack up at least eight snow days during five of the past 10 years, they are prohibited from opening before the late summer holiday.

Over the years, a variety of claims have been made to justify the archaic dictum, most centered on economic arguments about the benefits of ensuring the summer’s family vacation season isn’t cut short. In those talks, not enough consideration has been paid to the educational benefits of giving students an earlier start.

Education leaders have made their positions clear. When given the option to open the school year early, the vast majority do. Even parents, a constituent group that once bemoaned the notion of pre-Labor Day classes, have joined the chorus of those calling for the law’s repeal.

Changing weather patterns may make the state’s restriction moot—at least for snow-prone Northern Virginia jurisdictions. However, there is no reason for either the whims of Mother Nature or the dictates of the General Assembly to control educational opportunities localities choose to offer to their students.

Leave a Reply