If only this existed in Hawaii, we were out of prison school in late May, but we went right back in mid-July. Then again, we did get more days off. I feel bad for the students still stuck in that awful school system.
Kings Dominion closed for three days this week - first time in decades before Labor Day
By GREGORY J. GILLIGAN Richmond Times-Dispatch 08/31
Kings Dominion closed for three days this week — the first time in at least three decades that the theme park had scheduled closings before Labor Day.
The northern Hanover County theme park, which championed a change in state law that bans schools in Virginia from opening before Labor Day without a waiver, didn’t operate on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday .
It opens Friday and will be opened through the Labor Day holiday weekend, as well as certain weekends this fall.
Kings Dominion said closing the park for the three days had been posted on its website since the spring.
“There are numerous factors that go into planning the operating schedule each year and the planning is typically done a year in advance,” spokeswoman Katelyn Sherwood said in an email. “During that time, we decided it was best to be open this past Monday (Aug. 28) and Friday (Sept. 1) through Monday of Labor Day weekend.”
Sherwood didn’t elaborate on why the park decided to close for the three consecutive days.
Virginia’s other major theme park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, also was closed on Tuesday, according to its website. A park representative said Friday that Busch Gardens was closed that day because of inclement weather.
Before a 1986 state law went into effect that bans schools from opening before Labor Day, Kings Dominion often closed in late August because it didn’t have enough teens to work at the park, said Wilson H. Flohr Jr., the park’s executive vice president and general manager from 1984 to 1998.
Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens opened in May 1975.
“We had to close the week before Labor Day because we could not staff the park to maintain our safety and cleanliness standards,” Flohr said, referring to the time before the state law went into effect. “We had to turn away thousands of guests — mostly tourists from the Northeast because schools didn’t start there until after Labor Day.”
Having enough workers available as the summer wound down was a key reason why Kings Dominion and other tourist attractions convinced state legislators to change the law. The law got nicknamed the Kings Dominion relief bill as a result.
“It is a tourism effort and it expands the tourism season as long as possible to accommodate travelers from states that traditionally open their schools after Labor Day,” Flohr said of the need for keeping the ban on opening schools before Labor Day.
Flohr said he didn’t know why Kings Dominion decided to close for three days this week — but he pointed out that the park is not closed for the season.
“It wouldn’t be proper for me to comment on why. I certainly am not privy to their attendance trends,” he said.
Some state lawmakers have tried changing the law, but it has become a somewhat futile and perennial exercise.
Proponents have argued that starting public school sooner provides educational benefits to students. Opponents, including tourism organizations and the hotel and restaurant industry, have maintained that there is no benefit and note how an extended summer boosts their bottom line.
Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, said an economic impact study conducted a couple of years ago showed starting schools early would have a $360 million negative impact on the state’s tourism industry. The group is in the process of updating the figures.
“If you are going to negatively impact the economy and the desperately needed taxes, it doesn’t make sense (to start schools early) if there are is not a valid reason for it,” Terry said.
Starting schools after Labor Day helps all tourists designations, not just Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens, he said.
“All of our tourist designations really rely on the full tourism season,” Terry said. “Our tourism season is very compact from Memorial Day to Labor Day and if you change that dynamic, you really hurt the season.”
State law allows local school districts to open before Labor Day if they get a waiver from the state Board of Education.
Of Virginia’s 132 school districts, 85 have received a waiver allowing them to open before Labor Day, according to the state Department of Education.
That means about 65 percent of the nearly 1.3 million students will return to school before Labor Day, department spokesman Charles Pyle said.
Of the 85 divisions receiving a waver this academic year, 52 received one because of the number of days closed on average last year because of weather and other emergencies, he said.
School districts receiving waivers this year include Fairfax, Albemarle, Goochland, Loudoun, Prince William, Louisa and Caroline counties as well as the cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Roanoke and Winchester.
For 4-5 years I actually made sure to go during the last week of August simply because I had discovered how empty the park tended to be. However, since this was after work and they closed at 7 PM last year on the 3 days in question I couldn't do it last year. As to slack, I'm talking about there being more cars in the employee lot than the guest lot. Solo rides on FoF etc. As wonderful as that can be to enjoy, it's obviously not sustainable. Not many know, because so few were there to see.
Lawmakers push to change Kings Dominion rule — again
RICHMOND, Va. -- Icy roads have meant shifting school calendars in Central Virginia, but even before the winter storms, state lawmakers were considering giving local school districts more control over their yearly calendar.
Specifically, a change to what's known as the Kings Dominion rule, a law which requires public schools to begin the school year after Labor Day unless they are granted a waiver.
The rule was originally passed in the late 1980s to help Virginia’s tourism industry so parks like King Dominion and Busch Gardens can stay open longer and employ high school seasonal workers.
However, there are multiple bills in the House and Senate aimed at changing the rule. If approved by lawmakers, local school districts could decide when to begin the year.
"I think the local schools should be able to decide what they need,” said Omar Montesclaros, who lives in Richmond. “They better know what their students need and what their facilities are able to do."
However, more than 65-percent of Virginia students already start the year before Labor Day because of the available waiver, state officials said.
"I think it would be great to go back to school before Labor Day because then you can get out earlier, in June,” said Aubrey Athey, who attended school in northern Virginia.
But Shawn Turner, who got his daughter, Zemi, a sweet treat for her birthday on Sunday, said fun like they're having on a warm Sunday in Carytown -- makes him think things should stay as they are.
"There's plenty of time for school. School goes long enough as it is,” Turner said. “I think it's good for the kids and the families.”
State lawmakers have tried to change the Kings Dominion rule practically every year and similar bills have never passed.
To give some perspective on this, my school recently held a hearing about moving the start of the school year from the day after Labor Day to the second-to-last week of August. Practically the sole reason for considering the new schedule is to provide students with two extra weeks of AP instruction for the AP exams which take place in early May. The argument is that students in school systems which are not bound by the "Kings Dominion Law" are getting an unfair advantage because they have two extra weeks to prepare for the exams and thus have an upper hand for college acceptances.
When the Kings Dominion Law was brought up, administration seemed nonchalant about simply receiving a waver. My observation is that educators couldn't care less about the tourism and summer businesses that are supposed to be aided by the Law; their only concern is education. However, I think it is important that more perspectives than just those of educators are brought into discussion about the Law. While their points are valid, there is a reason the Law was created in the first place: to aid Virginia tourism. I'm in no position to weigh the effectiveness of the Law in fulfilling its purpose, but nonetheless the issue is not as cut-and-dry as it seems.
The first thing my government class talked about this year was the Kings Dominion law and how it affects us. And let me tell you, not one person in that class thought those two weeks would affect their AP scores. Also out of all the AP courses I have taken, I have had the entirety of April and some March just to review. While I understand where lawmakers are coming from, I think an extra two weeks at the beginning of the year is something that is unnecessary for students.
In my opinion, the value of education massively outweighs any value from extending theme park hours later into August. Society has a demonstrated interest in a well-educated public.
Honestly, I have long found the debate to be a bit circular. We need to keep schools closed until after Labor Day to ensure there are teenagers to staff the parks that don't need to be open, if school is back in session.
As for AP exams, I can't speak to how other schools address them, but we were never specifically taught for the test. We were expected to be able to pass our APs based on traditional coursework. Using that model, having two extra weeks up front absolutely makes a difference, because you get two additional weeks of instruction to apply to your exams.
If it takes two weeks longer for kids to learn the same thing I learned starting school after Labor Day, then so be it. I think they should ask the kids to take a vote on shortening their summer by two weeks and go with those results. I'm fairly certain if they involved the teachers in that vote, that it would yield the same result.
As I understand it, many school systems are asking to simply shift the start of school two weeks earlier- meaning the school year would also end two weeks early (around Memorial Day). The school year and summer would still be the same length.