How early school start affects W MI tourism


HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Monday marked the start of the school year for thousands of students in West Michigan, even though a state law requires districts to wait until after Labor Day to start.

The law, which went in to effect 12 years ago, was designed to boost tourism.

This year, state officials approved waivers for 141 schools to start early. Hastings, Grandville, Jenison, Rockford, and Greenville public schools are just a few in the area starting before the holiday.

Students of Grand Rapids Public Schools also returned to class Monday.

A majority of parents waiting for their children outside of Grand Rapids Montessori School Monday afternoon told 24 Hour News 8 that they were indifferent about the earlier start.

“I like starting school a little bit earlier,” Katie Bozek, a mother of three, said.

She’s also happy that the school year will end earlier.

“We figured they’d start again before Labor Day this year because they did last year. We were not expecting two weeks before Labor Day. This is very early,” another mother, Kelly Huhn, said.

With more than 100 school districts welcoming students back before the holiday weekend, there will likely be fewer visitors in summer hotspots like Holland. Additionally, some of the seasonal employees had to quit their summer jobs as they prepare for the school year.

“There are some help wanted signs around and I am hearing that people are looking for that type of help which is so, so important,” said Sally Laukitis, executive director of the Holland Area Visitors Bureau.

She said that hotels and businesses are still planning on large crowds over the holiday weekend, even if those numbers dwindle during the weekdays.

“It is an interesting conundrum,” Laukitis said.

Businesses like the Macatawa Ale Company, formerly the 8th Street Grille in downtown Holland, are milking the benefits of the final summer visitors. They mainly hired Hope College students so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the back-to-school departures.

“We got the beach, there’s a lot of tourists downtown. You really want to be on your game and be well-staffed to handle the customer base,” Ed Westerlund, the chef and owner of the restaurants, said.

Laukitis told 24 Hour News 8 that her team knows summer for several schools is ending earlier, but  instead of looking to change that, it is mainly planning new marketing techniques.

She’s optimistic that the city’s natural beauty will speak for itself.

“People still like that last hoorah and a lot of the schools don’t have school on Friday or on Monday,” Laukitis said.

The Holland tourism bureau will track the number of visitors and compare it to previous years.

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