HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)– Henrico County Public Schools is discussing the option to begin the 2022-23 school year before Labor Day. The 2021-22 school year will start after Labor Day with a start date of Sept 8.
The school division brought up the idea last year, but had to postpone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea is for the HCPS 2022-23 school year to start a week before Labor Day. However, the topic is still in the early stages. If the idea is approved, the 2022-23 school year would start on Aug. 29, 2022. It would end on June 16, 2023.
The Henrico County Public Schools Calendar committee has proposed a staggered approach for an earlier start date for the school year over the next few years. For the 2022-23 school year, employees’ contractual work calendars would begin one week earlier and would end one week earlier.
According to HCPS, the consideration would still meet or exceed the state standards for student learning time, but would also add the flexibility for new holidays and observances during the school year. This would promote student diversity. The change would provide additional professional learning and collaboration time for teachers within schools and/or school feeder patterns and would provide additional planning. In addition, it would better align the school division with neighboring school divisions.
Virginia state law changed in 2019 to allow schools to open two weeks before Labor Day. Under the law, the first day of school can be no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day, unless a school board has a waiver from the Board of Education.
There are several school divisions in Central Virginia that have already adopted the change or are considering an early school year start. In March of 2020, Henrico County Public Schools introduced the potential of a pre-Labor Day start for the 2021-22 school year. The idea was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chesterfield County Public Schools announced last summer that they will move to a pre-Labor Day school opening during the 2021-2022 school year. Children in CCPS will start this upcoming school year on either Aug. 23 or Aug. 24.
At Thursday’s HCPS school board meeting, HCPS Board Member Marcie Shea, was open to the idea. Shea stated that the proposed calendar would have less half days than normal.
“Instructionally, half days are a challenge to be productive frequently, and are also a really big challenge for our families with childcare,” said Shea.
Board members Kristi Kinsella and Michelle Ogburn agreed with Shea.
Few board members mentioned that not only would the proposed calendar align with other school divisions, but it would better align with out-of-school recreational activities. Some members also mentioned that it would benefit students who might not have transportation to after school activities.
HCPS Board Member Alicia Atkins believes it’s crucial for input from the community.
“The calendar is a priority topic in many communities,” said Atkins.
Employees and families within the school district can provide feedback and comments about the proposal by filling out a form here. Comments will be made public. According to the school division, more than 2,000 people have already responded after an HCPS event this month.
There will be a session for employees to provide feedback on July 14, followed by two live sessions for the public.
The HCPS Calendar Committee will meet several times to finalize the details of the 2022-23 calendar for public and employee review. The school board will also be considering a post-Labor Day start. A final decision won’t be made until August.