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Education is a big issue in northern Michigan, whether we're reporting on school funding issues to breakthroughs in the classroom.

Back to school already? Some districts start this week

Morgan Springer

Class begins this week for 57 school districts in Michigan, including three districts within the Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District. Schools are required to start after Labor Day in Michigan, but these districts applied successfully for a waiver from the Michigan Department of Education.

One district starting early is Manton Consolidated Schools. Their first day is Wednesday, August 24th.

Leonard Morrow, superintendent at Manton schools, says they wanted to start early because students often forget what they learned during the last school year over the summer break.

"Our teachers are repeat teaching or reviewing constantly at the beginning of the year," says Morrow.

He says his district can tell some students are losing information over the summer because their test scores are worse when they get back to school.

With a shorter break, they're hoping to avoid that.

Jeff Jennette, superintendent of the Wexford-Missaukee ISD, has a simple explanation for why kids fall back during summer break.

"If they don’t have families that read [to them] on a regular basis and work on different academic skills over the summer, then they’re a little behind when they come back in September," Jennette says.

Jeff Jeannette says there are other reasons to shorten the summer break.

He says roughly 50 percent of his students receive free and reduced lunch in school, and for some kids getting a meal at school is more important than getting an education. He says the summer break can stall the progress of kids who require things like special education or speech therapy.

Both Jennette and Morrow add that – especially for high schools – it makes sense to start before Labor Day because sports teams have already been practicing and competing. 

The kids in the Wexford-Missaukee ISD won’t go to school more days than other kids in Michigan. It's a requirement that every school in Michigan be open for 180 school days a year. Instead they’ll have a shorter summer but more breaks throughout the school year.

The state has approved an early start for the district for at least three years. After three years, the Wexford-Missaukee ISD is hoping they'll see improved test scores.

Two other districts in the Wexford-Missaukee ISD, McBain and Lake City, start school on August 29. These northern Lower Michigan school districts also begin early: Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District, Clare-Gladwin Regional Educational Service District, Montcalm Area Intermediate School District and Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District.

Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.