The Saline Area Schools will host a public input session Jan. 8 on the topic of starting the 2018-2019 school year before Labor Day.
Supt. Scot Graden announced during the Board of Education’s Oct. 12 meeting that the district had applied for a waiver from the state superintendent’s office, and at the Dec. 12 meeting, announced that the district had received tentative approval, with the requirement that there be a public hearing before the waiver is issued.
Michigan schools have been required by law to start classes after Labor Day since the 2006-2007 school year after legislation, favored by the Michigan tourism industry, was passed. However, schools are allowed to apply to the state superintendent's office for a waiver.
Graden said he hasn’t received the guidelines for what constitutes a “public hearing” yet, so the Jan. 8 meeting might not count toward the state requirement, but he wants to get public input anyway.
He took a “straw poll” of 20 school administrators and found that about 10 percent wanted to start after Labor Day, 65 percent liked the idea of starting Aug. 27, and 25 percent had no opinion on the start date for the 2018-2019 school year.
He said an email will be going out to parents and school staff asking for their opinion via an online survey as well.
A reason the district is seeking the waiver, Graden said during the Oct. 12 discussion, was to provide more flexibility in scheduling, so the district can attempt to make sure, for instance, that students don’t have final exams conflicting with sports tryouts.
Graden told The Saline Post the district wants to better align its calendar with its instructional priorities. An earlier start to the school year could allow the district to have conferences and exams before the Thanksgiving break and end the school year closer to Memorial Day.
"As we go deeper in to June we're concerned about students' ability to remain focused. At the same time we've heard from parents that students are ready to return to school in late August," Graden said.
Graden and other school staffers compiled a list of pros and cons for either an Aug. 27 start date or a Sept. 4 start date. Advantages to starting early include giving Advanced Placement students one more day of schooling and studying before AP tests in May, finishing the school year a week earlier (June 7 vs. June 14) and being in closer alignment with college and university calendars, which will affect students in a dual enrollment program.
Disadvantages to the earlier start date include some additional costs, since Labor Day would be a paid holiday for staff members, as well as shortening the summer break between the end of the current school year and the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
The public is invited to comment during a community forum at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Liberty School Media Center.