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City Council Approves Appeal to Change School Start Times

City must win OK from Virginia General Assembly to change charter.

At the urging of schools officials, the Manassas Park City Council on Tuesday adopted a measure that would allow the school system to start classes before Labor Day. It would amend the city charter and requires Virginia General Assembly approval.

Superintendent of schools Dr. Bruce McDade and school board Chairman Michael Wine addressed the council at a public hearing on the matter. Both said it was best for the school system.

“I wholeheartedly endorse the resolution,” McDade said. “We in Manassas Park know better than anyone what we feel is the best interests of our students.”

The state mandates starting dates for almost all the schools in the state, this year it was after Labor Day. A bill to allow schools in the state to adopt their own starting times failed to pass in the last session.

However, schools officials and council members said there were special circumstances in Manassas Park that may convince state lawmakers to grant the waiver. The waiver would be based on the district’s small size, the proportion of at-risk students who receive free or low-priced lunch, the number who receive English language instruction and the need for more instruction time to prepare for the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.

“We would explore the possibility of starting classes prior to Labor Day,” McDade said. It “would afford our students more time to prepare for Standards of Learning tests. Moreover, the students enrolled in Advance Placement courses would also have additional instructional time.”

Manassas Park Mayor Frank Jones and the council spent some time Tuesday night crafting the exact language they felt Virginia Del. Bob Marshall (R) would be able to carry to the statehouse. Marshall is working with the city on writing a measure that can pass the General Assembly without generating opposition.

“We appreciate the city doing this and we think this will be in the best interests of our students,” Wine said.

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