More and more Michigan school districts are starting classes before Labor Day, which the state Department of Education attributes to an increase of intermediate school districts requesting waivers for most of their local districts.
Districts can receive waivers to begin before Labor Day for four reasons: they have a calendar that’s the same as a higher-education institution that shares programming such as an Early Middle College program; it operates on a year-round calendar and has a summer break no longer than six weeks; it has been identified as a “persistently low-achieving school”; and an alternate program.
Three years ago, public school districts were required to have at least 180 instructional days, leaving educators trying to find ways to incorporate the additional five days. To accommodate the additional instructional days, Grand Haven Area Public Schools added days in June and removed holidays, but those changes weren’t well received by families, staff and community, Superintendent Andy Ingall said.
For the first time since the 2005-06 school year, Grand Haven will start in August.
“We have a long history of beginning school prior to Labor Day and felt it was the best option for our district,” Ingall said.
Ingall noted that band students and athletic programs have already started their seasons.
By starting in August, the district is able to have a two-week-long winter break and end school during the first week of June, Ingall said.
This is the second straight year Spring Lake Public Schools will start in August. The district previously received a waiver for its participation in the Early College program, which students begin classes in August.
The pre-Labor Day start was also a consideration given the change in instructional days, SLPS Superintendent Dennis Furton said.
“The school calendar is a balancing act — start date, the length and number of vacations, and end date are all factors that are considered,” Furton explained. “We strive to provide a calendar that best supports student learning and quality family time.”
To determine school calendars, districts work within the holidays and breaks scheduled by their intermediate school district. From there, the calendar is negotiated between the district’s Board of Education and educator unions.
Moving up the start of the school year has received positive feedback and has been well received, according to both Furton and Ingall.
Although some schools are starting in August, Fruitport Community Schools will continue to begin its school year in September. Superintendent Bob Szymoniak said the district won’t consider getting waivers to start early until a big construction project is completed, which will be in about three years.
“We need to give our contractors as much time as possible to do their work without having to work around students and staff,” he said.
Grand Haven and Spring Lake will end the school year on June 7, 2019. Fruitport’s last day is June 11.