Students at Manassas Park schools could be starting classes before Labor Day in the near future if a measure adopted by the City Council on Tuesday wins final approval at the next session of the Virginia General Assembly.
The council approved the measure that change the city's charter, the part that addresses school scheduling. Changing that part of the city charter would allow the city school division to set its own starting date for the school year. Currently, the state mandates starting dates for almost all the schools in the state, usually after Labor Day.
A bill to allow schools in the state to adopt their own starting times failed to pass in the last session, but council members said they thought the city could win an exception. The waiver would be based on the district’s small size, proportion of at-risk students and the need for more instruction time to prepare for the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.
“By moving the time back a little, it will give us more time to help our students prepare for the SOL tests,” said Councilman Suhas Naddoni. “We can’t change the dates of the SOLs, but with the extra time, more students can be better prepared to take the tests.”
Virginia Del. Bob Marshall (R) has said he will work with the city to craft a measure that can pass the General Assembly without generating opposition. After the public hearing is held later this month, Manassas Park Mayor Frank Jones suggested that city officials work with Marshall and his staff to write an acceptable bill.
“I think we have a good case here, but we have to be careful how we make it,” said Jones. “We are getting one shot at this, only one bite of the apple.”