Alexandria, VA

Alexandria City Public Schools reiterated in a School Board meeting last Friday (May 15) that the upcoming school year won’t start before Labor Day (Sept. 7) but the next school year likely will.

In a memo to the board, Chief Human Resources Officer Stephen Wilkins said that Calendar Committee recommended the 2021-2022 school year start at on Aug. 28. School officials warned, however, that this could change depending on the long-term impact of COVID-19.

“We may be revisiting the 2021-2022 calendar again,” Hutchings said. “It may look completely different than what we have presented… With everything that’s happening with the pandemic, calendars for this year and next year could look different.”

The school district said earlier that the state legislature’s change to the requirement that schools start after Labor Day — colloquially known as the King’s Dominion Rule — came too late to give families enough time to plan for the schedule change in the 2020-2021 school year.

While officials said Alexandria is not alone in pushing back plans to start before Labor Day until the 2021-2022 school year, the school system shouldn’t fall behind other jurisdictions moving to a pre-Labor Day start to ensure that Alexandria students have as much academic time as students in other regional jurisdictions.

“We reviewed the calendars for our region,” Wilkins said. “Many jurisdictions have a pre-Labor Day start. Our concern was to align our calendars with our neighbors.”

The School Board is scheduled to vote on the calendar recommendation in one of its meetings later this month.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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After some back and forth decision, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) has announced that having school start earlier than Labor Day next year would do more harm than good.

For years, local school districts were prohibited from starting school before Labor Day under a law colloquially known as the Kings Dominion law. In February, the Virginia legislature overturned the law.

The ACPS survey showed a pre-Labor Day start was the most popular choice among employees, parents and community members, though predictably it did not have the same support from students. Regardless, the school system decided that more notice would be needed in order to change the first day of school from its usual post-Labor Day slot.

From an ACPS press release:

We want to thank each and every one of you who participated in the calendar survey for the 2020-21 school year. The results of the survey were evenly split across all three calendars among staff and parents. Consequently, the school division assessed that our partners, parents and staff would need more time for planning before changing the calendar to start before Labor Day next school year. For example, changes to the calendar would impact summer school and summer camps already scheduled to be held in our buildings, plus the length of the summer vacation for staff and students alike.

ACPS said next year’s calendar will closely follow this year’s, allowing more time for planning for a potential pre-Labor Day start in 2021. The new, proposed calendar has Tuesday, Sept. 8 set as the first day of school.

Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun counties are all set to have pre-Labor Day starts. Arlington County is currently also considering a pre-Labor Day start.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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