ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — The school year is already underway at many school districts in West Michigan.

A growing number are getting state approval to go back before Labor Day. That has some concerned about the potential impact on tourism. 

Steve Matthews, Ed.D., the superintendent of Rockford Public Schools, said starting before Labor Day allows for additional and longer breaks during the year.

“It’s advantageous for us to go back before Labor Day,” Matthews said. “It gives us some increased flexibility in your school calendar. You have to have a certain number of hours and days. The state requires that and going back before that gives you some flexibility in planning your calendar.”

Students returned to class Monday in the district and have four-day weeks for the beginning of the year.

A law requires districts to start after Labor Day but more intermediate school districts are applying for waivers from the state.

Individual school districts can opt out but almost all public school districts in West Michigan begin classes before the holiday. Matthews said the early start also allows the staff and students to more easily transition back into the school year.  

“It allows us to have some half days for professional development for our staff. It allows us to create some time for us in February for a mid-winter break for example or … to extend maybe a little, a day or two for spring break,” Matthews said.       

Erin Murphy, the marketing director of the West Michigan Tourist Association, said the early schools starts have an impact but tourism still remains strong, especially with many districts providing long-weekends.

“We’ve always noticed in the tourism industry a downtick in tourism and travel,” Murphy said. “Having a long weekend and just that additional day off of a Friday does help to boost some tourism as people feel a little bit more comfortable heading out and exploring a little bit.”

One thing she is concerned about is the labor high school-aged workers provide filling a lot of those seasonal summer jobs.

“Working in those tourism-related organizations and positions has been tremendously helpful so you know long term that is a little bit of a concern that by having school start earlier. Their availability will be decreased a little bit,” Murphy said.