More districts get waivers to start school before Labor Day

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JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — The new school year is upon us in Michigan.

The law says schools can’t start before Labor Day.

It was intended to be a boost to tourism.

But schools are increasingly getting permission to side-step that rule and start class before the holiday.

This year, 123 schools districts obtained waivers from the state to start early.

That’s a significant increase from last year when 67 districts went back to school early.

6 News talked with school superintendents in Jackson County about how the early start is working out.

Wednesday morning, for the second year in a row, school bells at Columbia Central High School will start ringing before Labor Day.

The school district has a waiver from the state of Michigan to start school early.

“It is so much better for our students to start early. It gives them an opportunity, it gives their teachers an opportunity, to ease back into school, and they are ready to learn in the fall,” said Columbia School District Superintendent Pam Campbell.

Campbell says the early start also helps students sync up with advanced placement courses and college classes.

“We gain an advantage by doing that,” Campbell said. “We haven’t had a lot of negative feedback. It’s mostly been positive.”

Columbia isn’t the only school district in Jackson County starting early.

Wednesday morning, school buses all over Jackson County will pick up kids for a county-wide early start to the first day of school.

Last year, superintendents from all 12 of Jackson County’s public school districts got together and put their schools under the same early start waiver.

That means they now share a common calendar.

“There have been some challenges. But overall, it’s been a positive thing,” said Northwest Community Schools Superintendent Geoff Bontrager.

Bontrager says it’s only fitting that classes align with activities that begin in early August.

“Whether they’re playing fall sports, or band, or choir they’ve back in the swing of it,” Bontrager said.

He says schools still make sure families can get away and contribute to tourism.

“The kids have both Friday and Monday off. But I think it’s very important that everybody looks at what’s best for the students,” Bontrager said.

Campbell believes the entire county sees the benefits of starting and ending school at the same time.

“By going to a common calendar, it gave us a strength as a county, just a cohesiveness that we hadn’t had previously,” Campbell said.

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