It will be back to back to school early for Loudoun County students next year.
The School Board voted Tuesday night to adopt a calendar for the 2005-06 school year that would start Aug. 29, a week before Labor Day. This September was the first time in recent memory that Loudoun followed other Northern Virginia school districts and started school the day after the holiday.
State law requires schools to start after Labor Day, but districts with a history of days lost because of snow can obtain a waiver and start earlier. Loudoun has qualified for the waiver in past years. The school system lost the waiver before finalizing this year's calendar, about this time last year, and was forced to start later than usual.
Students lost eight days last winter, however, enough to put the waiver back on the table -- and the School Board chose to take it.
The Labor Day discussion has been a yearly debate. School Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III has traditionally supported starting in August, arguing that beginning school earlier means more instructional days can fit in the calendar because school can be extended only so far into June before it starts interfering with camps. Some board members have countered that starting afterward is more family-friendly, making a holiday vacation easier.
School Board Chairman John A. Andrews II (Potomac), a longtime supporter of a post-Labor Day start, said that e-mails from residents favored opening before the holiday, 751 to 357. He said he had expected more students than usual to show up for school on the first day this year, when school started the day after Labor Day, but in fact, as in past years, students trickled in during the first week of school.
"I'll be the first to admit I was wrong," he said. "A couple of us have fought every year for four years to have a post-Labor Day start. We got it this year, and I'm not going to be supporting it next year."
Starting earlier also allowed for longer Thanksgiving and winter breaks, which members said they thought families would appreciate.
"A pre-Labor Day opening calendar works better for education," said J. Warren Geurin (Sterling), who also had supported later starts. "The most important thing we do is to provide quality classroom learning and teaching. The sooner we can get that started and the better the schedule is, the better the children are going to do."
In 2006, the last day of school is scheduled for June 14.