Some schools skirt state law to start before Labor Day


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Dozens of schools across the state of Michigan will start class on Aug. 29, a week before the state law allows, because they were granted a waiver to do so by the state superintendent.

Ten years ago the state of Michigan passed a law requiring schools to start classes after Labor Day in an effort to increase money spent in the state on tourism.

However, schools hoping to start before the holiday can apply, and if they are approved, can get a waiver from the state to start early.

There are three main reasons why districts apply.

“A district that has an early middle college collaboration, so with a local community college or university where they have students that are getting college credits as part of their high school experience. A district that is on the persistent low achieving list. Obviously those schools have needs for their students to not be in the bottom five percent of our schools rankings,” said Deputy State Superintendent Kyle Guerrant.

The third reason affects schools that have more of a year round schedule where their summer break is typically closer to six weeks.

This year the state superintendent has approved 53 districts across the state for an early start which is down from the 100 last year. However that number is misleading.

Guerrant says more intermediate schools districts are applying for waivers for their entire region, meaning in some cases the state approves a waiver for an ISD which covers 20 to 30 districts. So while the number of districts approved this year is down, the number of students covered by waivers is actually up.

“What that says to us is that you have such an overwhelming move in certain parts of our state that this is something they want to do to increase the educational opportunities for our children, that it’s worth the ISD to apply on their behalf,” said Guerrant

While it’s not a reason they can apply for a waiver, some districts are clearly looking at a new law in place in Michigan this year that has changed the requirements for how long kids need to be in school each year. The new law changed the amount of time in school for students from a required number of hours to 180 days, which has lengthened the school calendar for most districts.

“As you think about the educational mandates that are being placed on schools, I think it’s illogical for us to think that they can achieve higher outcomes for their students in the same amount of time they have always done things,” Guerrant said.

Not every district that applies for a waiver is granted one. The state can and does deny some requests.

Both Greenville and Rockford Public Schools were first denied waivers by the state, but then reapplied and were approved to start a week before Labor Day.

“The band is here doing band camp, our football team is here, our clubs and organizations are meeting, our teachers are meeting. August seems to be a time we can gear up and get ready for school,” said Linda VanHouten, the superintendent of Greenville Public Schools.

College also starts the week before Labor Day which is another big reason the superintendents want to start early.

“We have over 700 kids involved in getting credit…why would we wait a week?” said Rockford Public Schools Superintent Michael Shibler.

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