The majority of public school students in Livingston County will be heading back to class on Monday.

Due to a change in law, school districts across the state are eligible to receive waivers from the Michigan Department of Education that release them from the requirement to start school after the Labor Day holiday. The Livingston Educational Service Agency or LESA was awarded a waiver for all five public districts in the county, which allows them to start before Labor Day if they choose. The early start date helps local districts align more closely with community college calendars for their early college and dual enrollment programs.

The start date is part of the calendar that’s worked out during teacher contract negotiations. Brighton Area Schools is the only district starting after Labor Day this year. Superintendent Greg Gray told WHMI they are currently in the last year of a five-year teacher contract, thus they will begin class after the holiday. Although local superintendents told WHMI they informed parents in their respective districts very early on for planning purposes, the pre-Labor Day start still seemed to come as a surprise to some.

Howell Public Schools Superintendent Erin MacGregor tells WHMI a few years ago, the state changed the number of required instructional days from 75 to 180 days. He says that shift prompted HPS to start looking at the change in start date so a survey was sent out about a year and a half ago. MacGregor says feedback was 50/50, with no indications strongly either way. Once the decision was made to start early, he says they worked to really communicate heavily with parents and hasn’t really received any negative feedback heading into the new school year. Educationally, he says the early start provided opportunities for them to better align to dual enrollment and early college programs students are involved in, and they’ll also end the school year about a week earlier. He noted they also had one full year to prepare the community that they would be starting before Labor Day.

MacGregor says change is always difficult and just anecdotally from conversations he’s had around the community, he has heard some concerns about the change. However, MacGregor feels once he talks things through – the fact they have the fact they have increased days which is pushing the end date later into June and they can align with college programming - he thinks families begin to understand the rationale. MacGregor further said he likes the way they’re easing into the change by starting with a four day week, since students and staff are off next Friday and Monday for the holiday, allowing for a long holiday weekend. He thinks staff can look at it as an opportunity next week to ease into routines and procedures of the classroom, and then start to get into instruction.

LESA Superintendent Mike Hubert told WHMI that all districts starting on the same day throughout the county, and even holding school during the year on the same days, would certainly be ideal from his perspective because the Agency provides so many services throughout the county and that would make their efforts much more efficient. However, Hubert says as a matter of process the school calendar is established locally and he believes the local priorities and preferences should be respected.

Below are further comments provided to WHMI by local superintendents.

Hartland Superintendent Chuck Hughes: “We made the decision in January and shared with the community in Community Life and through the schools. We feel that all students deserve an opportunity to participate in programming that starts before Labor Day and many activities start before Labor Day. Next year we plan on starting August 21 and will be done with first semester by Holiday Break and done the first week of June. “

Pinckney Superintendent Rick Todd: “I sent a letter to parents last year (Aug. 1, 2017) about the change. Honestly, I have not gotten any negative feedback from parents and I think one of the reasons is that I let our community know a year in advance so they could plan their vacations accordingly. I know many parents appreciated this. So far this year, things seem to be moving along as normal as kids and families are excited to be starting school next week and I have yet to talk with a parent who was negative about the change.”

Fowlerville Superintendent Wayne Roedel: “Students begin on the 27th or August this year and attend for four days and then have a four day weekend for the holiday before the grind starts. There are multiple reasons why we are choosing to do this. 1. The schedule more closely resembles that of the community colleges and we have many students who participate in dual enrollment. 2. It gives students and staff four days to get into the routine of school and to develop norms and expectations in each classroom. 3. High School sports teams have been practicing since the first week of August. It makes sense that students would be in session during their competitions. We will still play one football game prior to students even being on campus. 4. Our schools do not have air conditioning and it is easier to work hard in the heat when school is fresh rather than the end of the year in June. I have not received much negative feedback from parents or students." (JM)