VIRGINIA BEACH — The day after Labor Day has been the standard for the start of school in Virginia since 1986.
But legislation proposing to eliminate post-Labor Day school openings passes the House of Delegates in Richmond regularly, according to the City of Virginia Beach’s legislative agenda of the 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly.
That legislation to change the start date for schools doesn’t sit right with the city, which has lobbied the senate education and health committee successfully to stop the change. If the bill were to ever make it through the state senate, it would reorient late summers for many families.
Del. Jason Miyares of Virginia Beach voted against HB1020 in January, a bill which would have allowed school districts to determine the opening day of school. Miyares said the reason for the city’s opposition to the change, and the reason he voted against it, are the same: tourism.
“Voting against this is just recognition that tourism is a huge driver of the Virginia Beach economy and that employs a lot of people,” Miyares said “Also, regardless of when the start date is, students would still be in school the same number of days a year.”
Starting school prior to Labor Day would effectively reduce the available “prime family vacation time that cannot be replaced,” according to the city’s legislative agenda.
Diana Burke, executive director of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, echoed the city’s concerns and said hotels have already felt the effects of changes to the start of the school year.
“It really does impact revenue generation of this city,” Burke said. “Last year, 186,000 students in Fairfax started their school year before Labor Day, and we definitely felt it here.”
Still, most delegates in Virginia do not represent tourist meccas, and HB1020 passed the House of Delegates in February by a wide margin, 75 to 24.
Seven of the eight delegates representing Virginia Beach voted no, with Del. Chris Stolle voting yes. Stolle was not immediately available to comment on why he voted in favor of the bill.
The state Senate’s version of the house bill died in the education and health committee by an 8 to 7 vote, due in part to the City of Virginia Beach’s lobbying efforts.
In Maryland, school begins no earlier than the day after Labor Day, according to a 2013 executive order from Maryland Gov. Lawrence Hogan. However, most North Carolina schools begin prior to Labor Day.
Miyares, a lifelong resident of Virginia Beach, said he feels the school year is right where it needs to be in the state.
“I grew up in Virginia Beach and that’s all I’ve ever known. You get out of school and go back the day after Labor Day,” Miyares said. “I never felt short-changed by not going to school earlier in the summer.”