Chesterfield County Public Schools is proposing a pre-Labor Day start to the 2021-22 school year.  Sharon Pope, CCPS’s chief academic officer, spoke to the...

Chesterfield County Public Schools is proposing a pre-Labor Day start to the 2021-22 school year. 

Sharon Pope, CCPS’s chief academic officer, spoke to the school board about the proposal during the board’s May 12 work session.

“It seems an odd time to talk now” about the proposal, she said, but noted that school staff is presenting it early to allow more time for preparation.

The 2021 pre-Labor Day start includes a first instructional day of Aug. 23. Pope noted that state law requires school districts to give four days off for Labor Day if they start before the holiday, so the proposed calendar includes days off on Friday, Sept. 3, and Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6. 

Superintendent Merv Daugherty said the proposed calendar will result in “more quality instructional days” because two weeks after Memorial Day in 2022 would be eliminated. Adding nine instructional days at the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year will enhance instruction, he said. Staffers said students tend to “tune out” after Memorial Day. 

Although she noted that some parents are “very upset” about the proposal, board chair Debbie Bailey said she’s “very excited” about the calendar. 

“When I was in school, we went to school before Labor Day,” she said. “King’s Dominion didn’t exist.” That was a reference to the “Kings Dominion Law” that prevailed in the state for a number of years and prevented most school districts from starting before Labor Day. 

“This isn’t something we’ve never done,” said Bailey, who taught in the district for 34 years. “It’s just been a while.” 

Revised budget and C.I.P.

During the board’s regular May 12 meeting, they unanimously approved a revised operating fund budget of $703.6 million. This was a reduction of $23.3 million from one they requested in February. 

“The biggest caveat is it’s a projection,” said deputy superintendent Thomas Taylor. The budget is dependent on state revenue in light of the impact of COVID-19.

Also during the meeting, the board approved a revised capital improvement plan of $316.5 million. That represents a reduction of $55.4 million from the one the board requested in February. Over the next two years, the only school slated to be built is a new $32.6 million elementary school at Magnolia Green in western Matoaca. 

“I feel like someone just took away Christmas,” Bailey said. “These were not wants, they were needs,” she said, referring to several school building projects that will be delayed. 


New grant and principal

As part of the consent agenda, the board approved a $300 grant for Curtis Elementary School so students can demonstrate the life cycle of worms and how they help improve soil conditions for crops. 

In addition, Elizabeth Baber was hired effective July 1 as the new principal at Matoaca High School. Baber is currently the assistant principal at Monacan High. According to LinkedIn.com, she has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University in biology and chemistry. Baber will replace John Murray, who served as principal for three years.