Local school districts to start before Labor Day

ESCANABA — Local school districts included in the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District (DSISD) will start the 2020-2021 school year before Labor Day this year.

DSISD Superintendent Doug Leisenring was asked by other school district superintendents to apply for a Labor Day Waiver through the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) during a meeting last fall.

“It made sense to get the waiver,” said Leisenring. “The majority of the school districts in the ISD have an Early Middle College (EMC) program included in their curriculum so we wanted to tie the school calendar to Bay College’s calendar.”

The DSISD includes Bark River-Harris, Big Bay de Noc, Escanaba, Gladstone, Manistique, Mid Peninsula, Nah Tah Wahsh PSA, and Rapid River school districts.

“We applied as a group,” Leisenring said. “Though Gladstone and Rapid River will need to submit something additional to the state being it doesn’t have an EMC program.”

Gladstone and Rapid River Superintendent Jay Kulbertis is planning to start earlier with the other school districts.

“We have meetings with the MDE to put together a summer program that will qualify both districts for the earlier start,” said Kulbertis.

The waiver will allow school calendars to coincide with Bay de Noc Community College’s academic calendar since many of the districts in the ISD run Early Middle Colleges.

“Because the ISD applied and was approved, any district within the ISD running an EMC program will be able to develop a calendar with a pre-Labor Day start,” said Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher.

EMC is a 13-year program provided by school districts to their students. The program gives students the opportunity to start their college career sooner. Starting freshman year, students can earn a high school diploma while achieving an associates degree, a Michigan Early Middle College Association technical certification, up to 60 transferable college credits, or participation in a number of registered apprenticeship programs.

A five-year curriculum is created for each student that enters. The 13th year of schooling is free at Bay College. Students from freshman to junior classes can sign up, if their school district made an agreement with Bay College.

“Now students in the Early Middle College program will receive services at the start of the school year,” said Leisenring.

According to a Michigan law, schools are not allowed to start before Labor Day. To help tourism, on Sept. 29, 2005, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed House Bill 4803, ‘Ban school year starting before Labor Day’. School districts may apply for a waiver from the Superintendent of Public Instruction. At that time, it is determined if the school is eligible to start before Labor Day. The ISD received a waiver that will cover three years.

Superintendents are planning the 2020-2021 school year to start either Aug. 31, or Sept. 1, at this time. The exact start dates can be different by district. Every district will need to negotiate a calendar with the teachers’ union.

“We now have a great deal more flexibility in structuring our school year than we have had in the past,” said Fletcher.