Roanoke County and Roanoke could retain their ability to open schools before Labor Day in the 2013-14 school year under provisions tucked into the budget bills passed today by the Senate and House of Delegates.
Both bills contain an automatic, one-year extension of state waivers that exempt certain school divisions from a law requiring schools to open after Labor Day. If the provision survives budget negotiations between the House and Senate, it still would need Gov. Bob McDonnell’s approval in order to take effect.
The current state budget contains an identical grandfather provision for the 2012-13 school year.
As Annie McCallum reported today, Roanoke County is preparing to adopt a school calendar for 2013-14 that will have classes beginning after Labor Day for the first time in 19 years. That’s because the county has not had enough weather-related school closings to qualify for a waiver from Virginia’s so-called “Kings Dominion law.”
The General Assembly passed legislation in 2011 that allowed Roanoke’s school system to piggyback on Roanoke County’s waiver. So if Roanoke County loses its exemption, so does Roanoke.
The House has passed legislation that would give all local school divisions control of their calendars and eliminate the post-Labor Day opening requirement. But a Senate committee last week killed a virtually identical bill sponsored by Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Bedford County.
– Michael Sluss