Kings Dominion Law still forces Virginia schools to start after Labor Day

Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2015 9:28 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Students from across Virginia will have one more weekend to enjoy the Berserker and the Dominator, despite the fact that children in D.C. and Maryland are already sitting through math class. That's because of the Kings Dominion Law. It's a 1986 law passed at the behest of the amusement park that legally prohibits school divisions from opening before Labor Day unless they qualify for a waiver.

Read more from WAMU/Washington.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 9:48 AM

So a tourism association claims huge dollar impact of the law and commissions a study which shows no negative impact on students with starting later. Shocking. Next thing you know pro sports teams will release studies showing positive economic impacts on taxpayer funded sports facilities. Lol

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 10:00 AM

Other than just the principle of businesses dictating the school calendar, I'm not sure where the problem is. In many Ohio school districts, the start date is delayed by late August county fairs, but since it's the schools choosing to do that rather than it being set by law, that makes it OK... I guess?

Is there a good argument for why school has to end during the first week of June rather than the second? Or is this really about having enough prep time early in the year for the precious state standardized tests?

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 10:16 AM

Business interests deciding (and for the entire state) is the issue. Let local school boards decide when to start school taking into account their own demographics, funding issues, etc. If a given district has a lot of kids taking part in a county fair, maybe it makes sense to delay the school year start. But let the community decide. Not a tourism association.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 11:25 AM

Who influences the decision notwithstanding....

I grew up with school starting after Labor Day....and despite the persistent mental illness, my educational attainment has not been hampered in any way....

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 11:43 AM

Yeah my school growing up always started a week or two after labor day. As long as it's still the proper number of days long, what difference does it make if Virginia starts a week or two later than neighboring states? People are only complaining about this because Labor Day is the latest it could possibly be this year.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 1:46 PM

It seems that every year stupid articles appear about this. The fact is the school year is so many weeks long. If they go back in August then the school year will end in May, not June.

The writer might have an argument if "Kings Dominion Law" shortened the time kids spend in school which it does not.

The only good argument to starting in August is that the half way point of the school year is before the Christmas holiday break instead of January.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 2:55 PM

Our schools always started the day after Labor Day and ran until appx. June 8. However, we never got a week off for Spring break and got off 1 week for Christmas. It seems silly that schools start in August when its hot outside and kids are not that interested in being inside.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 3:05 PM

I don't remember if I started school before or after Labor Day. When this issue came up on pointbuzz recently with respect to Michigan schools, Walt's research indicated that Ohio schools have been starting in late August since 1980 which was a year or two before I started high school. I just don't remember.

The point isn't that kids' educational attainment is necessarily hampered by starting classes after Labor Day. To my knowledge people who oppose the KD law don't think everyone should be forced to start before Labor Day. Just let local districts and communities decide rather than outside lobbying interests. And as I am pretty sure this issue has been discussed multiple times on this board about this time every year, I don't think the lateness of Labor Day this year matters.

What's more interesting to me is that it seems very likely that what is at play here is a small number of players with a big benefit lobbying for a change that benefits them. On the flip side there are a larger number of people hurt by it in smaller individual amounts going silent because it doesn't make economic sense to try to join together as a group.

For the vast majority of people, discretionary spending funds are fixed. Spend something more on one thing and you necessarily spend less on something else (or spend a little less on a bunch of things). If kids are in school this week and not going to KD (and other touristy things), what happens to that money they would have otherwise spent at KD? It doesn't disappear. And looking at our savings rate, it's not going into savings accounts. For vast majority of people it's spent on other things. And those businesses benefit. Spend money at KD instead and those other businesses don't get the benefit.

Last edited by GoBucks89, Wednesday, September 2, 2015 3:24 PM
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 6:31 PM

Did people really skip out altogether on going to KD when school started in August? My assumption is that the people were smart enough to say lets go the week before school starts regardless of when school started. I don't see how having school start later in the year would create an increase in attendance when looking at the entire operating season.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 6:44 PM

I think this is a very odd law, coming from a business. I really think in most cases individual communities need to decide what works for them so long as the dates don't cause problems for seniors going to college. This district in Ohio that I work for started on August 19th. This district my kids attend which is more rural didn't start until August 31st because of the fair. They asked the community what we wanted and enough of us said to just start late so they did.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 6:46 PM

I think what we're forgetting momentarily is when school starts early there's no one to work at the parks during the week. Now, there may be a trade off to that with increased availability in the spring...

But just ask Kings Island. That park has traditionally closed for daily op the week before Labor Day, and I think this year with five weeks in August it was actually two weeks ahead of Labor Day. The weekend starts at 5p on Friday.

Last edited by RCMAC, Wednesday, September 2, 2015 7:24 PM
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 8:54 PM

super7* said:

It seems silly that schools start ...when ... kids are not that interested in being inside.

Is this ever the case?

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Thursday, September 3, 2015 11:24 AM

Aren't a large number of kids who work at seasonal amusement parks college students? Does the KD law apply to colleges too?

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Thursday, September 3, 2015 3:52 PM

Some, but my experience is that at parks like KD, KI, and a lot of SF parks is that they're high school students. The nearer to a big city and suburbs a park is the more you'll find that to be true.
Cedar Point is the only park I can think of that is primarily college kids and they provide housing.
Most colleges and universities are on semesters rather than quarters, so late season can be a challenge for them as well.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015 11:02 PM

There are very valid reasons for starting earlier. For example, the College Board has to schedule Advanced Placement Exams generally starting the first of May. This date is selected to ensure that the exams are completed in such a timeframe as to allow them to be graded prior to any districts finishing the school year, as well as ensuring that grades are sent back to students and prospective colleges early enough that students can register appropriately for the fall. A school district that waits until after Labor day versus starting August 24th has lost two weeks of educational time. That's very hard to makeup, and to some extent, does show up in the performance of students. Colleges are also starting back earlier in order to fit semesters in before Christmas, which again argues for an earlier start.

In Northern areas, starting back earlier also limits the exposure to potential weather cancellations in the winter. If you start earlier, and for some reason have a very bad winter, you still get finished at a decent time.

Getting finished earlier also means there is more of summer in which there are full days available. If you think about it, every day past June 20th starts to get shorter. If that is roughly the middle of summer, then it makes summer a bit more evenly spaced.

The schedule we are on, in general, really is based upon a much older, agrarian lifestyle where kids needed to be home for harvest time. That really isn't true today.

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