Another side of the issue

Published 10:33 pm Monday, January 27, 2014

As the hours passed on Monday, the weather predictions for Suffolk became bleaker and bleaker. What had started off as three or four inches of snow predicted for Suffolk soon became four to six and then six to 10 inches. By this morning, forecasters will have a better handle on what folks in Suffolk can expect when they awake on Wednesday, but by midday today, Suffolk is sure to be feeling the first effects of what’s likely to be the season’s biggest snowfall this season.

One of the major effects will be the second week of disruptions to the city’s school schedules. It’s likely, based on history, that Suffolk Public Schools officials will call off classes for Wednesday, at the very least, and if there’s anything near the accumulation the experts were forecasting on Monday, schools will likely be closed Thursday, as well. With temperatures expected to remain below freezing until Thursday afternoon, even Friday’s schedule could be in doubt.

After missing three full days last week, students in Suffolk found themselves returning for partial days Monday and Tuesday, as they made up for the exams they missed last week. Two of last week’s missed days were included in the district schedule; the other will be made up on Presidents Day. The next snow day the public schools take must be made up on Memorial Day, and any others will be made up on Saturdays, according to a school district spokesperson.


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With this year’s looming scheduling mess as the backdrop, the General Assembly is once again this year considering the so-called “King’s Dominion Law,” which would allow local school boards to set their own schedule for the first day of school, rather than making the vast majority of them wait until after Labor Day to begin the school year, as they currently do.

The bill is a perennial part of the Assembly’s workload, and it is perennially shot down by legislators working against it and on behalf of supporters representing the business interests of Virginia’s tourism industry, which relies on high school students to provide cheap labor during the waning weeks of summer each year.

But if schools could start before Labor Day, they could build more potential snow days into their calendars without having to resort to makeup days on major holidays or Saturdays.

Perhaps this year’s widespread school closures due to snow and cold temperatures will remind Virginia’s reticent legislators that there is another side to the matter of school scheduling.