HB 1483 (Del. Cleaveland) provides a narrow exception to the post-Labor Day school opening requirement for a school division that is entirely surrounded by a school division that has received a waiver from the Board of Education to open before Labor Day. Del. Cleaveland has explained that the purpose of his bill is to address a unique situation faced by the Roanoke City Public Schools, which has a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch (70%+). The school system makes every effort to keep the schools open during inclement weather so that the students are fed. Consequently, Roanoke City Public Schools are not closed due to inclement weather as frequently as the surrounding school divisions and, therefore, they do not qualify for a waiver to the post-Labor Day opening requirement under the current waiver system. Del. Cleaveland’s bill would allow Roanoke City Public Schools to have a waiver and operate on the same schedule as the surrounding school divisions.
The tourism industry strenuously opposed this bill, claiming, incredibly, that it would be detrimental to tourism in the Commonwealth to allow Roanoke City Schools to start before Labor Day because the families of Roanoke City students would otherwise travel during the Labor Day holiday. Efforts earlier this week to rerefer the bill to the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (where the tourism industry would again try to defeat the bill) were unsuccessful. The bill was debated extensively on the floor of the Senate this week and was ultimately passed by the Senate today on a vote of 22 to 18.