Parents, we're coming up on that magical time of the year here in West Michigan-- back to school time! Families across the state are stocking up on all the backpacks, pencils, and protractors the kiddos will need to have a successful 2023-24 school year.

Similar to the yearly release of pumpkin spice or when Christmas decorations start appearing on store shelves, it seems like the start of the new school year happens earlier and earlier each year.

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Or is it just me?

I don't know if you were aware--I know I certainly wasn't-- that state law mandates Michigan's public schools to begin their school year after the Labor Day holiday. However, that doesn't seem to be the case here in Southwest Michigan!

So are they breaking the law?

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First, Why Does This Law Exist?

Originally signed into law in 2005 by then-Michigan Governor and current U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, the law took effect in 2007 and is rooted in Michigan tourism.

Many communities, especially the beachside communities along the lakeshore, earn the majority of their tourism dollars during the busy summer season that traditionally lasts from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

In 2022 Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association Vice President of Government Affairs John McNamara told MLive,

There are people who make a good chunk of their money from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and when you take away two, three weekends, that’s massively impactful to their bottom line

In fact, once the law took effect hotel room sales saw a $4.5 million boost in revenue.

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How Do Schools Get Around It?

There are exceptions to the rule and individual school districts may apply for a waiver from the Michigan Department of Education requesting permission for an early start to their school year; the waiver is valid for 3 years.

MLive reports of Michigan's 56 county-wide school districts eligible for the waiver, 49 districts were approved for an early start for the 2022 through 2024 school years.

Those using the waivers say the earlier start date lets them get in their state-mandated 180 days of instruction and end the year earlier, while others say students are already participating in school-related activities like sports and band in August.

When Does School Start in 2023?

Using this interactive map of Michigan school districts you'll see the majority of Michigan schools have chosen to start prior to the Labor Day holiday. For comparison, here are some start dates for local school districts in Southwest Michigan:

  • Otsego – Monday, August 21
  • Three Rivers – Tuesday, August 22
  • Battle Creek – Wednesday, August 23
  • Kalamazoo – Monday, August 28
  • Plainwell – Monday, August 28
  • Comstock – Monday, August 28
  • Portage – Monday, August 28
  • Gobles – Monday, August 28
  • Allegan – Monday, August 28

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