Q: What type of feedback have you received on the calendar?
A: As we developed the calendar, we gathered input from the multiple stakeholders we serve. There are numerous perspectives about the calendar and some are very different. For example, we received feedback from high school students and their parents that they do not prefer school running later in June. Reasons cited included high school students would not have the same opportunity for summer employment and college-bound students wanted to attend summer bridge programs but would have very little time between the end of school and those programs. In addition, teachers can begin taking summer coursework when postsecondary institutions begin summer session.
Q: Why does the calendar have students start school before Labor Day?
A: For years our country has been discussing the flaws of the traditional school calendar. For examples, see Prisoners of Time and Learning Time in America. The traditional school calendar was based on the agrarian and industrial economy and no longer supports what our children need to be successful in the 21st century. The Association of Metropolitan School Districts asserts that “Minnesota’s school calendar should be based on the educational needs of today’s students. Our students need to be prepared for an evolving, global economy that is much different than the economy that existed in the last century. Our schools and students should not be restrained by a calendar that was created for a different time and a different place."
Q: The Minnesota State Legislature prohibits school starting before Labor Day. How can MPS start before Labor Day?
A: State statue allows for exceptions. MPS falls under section (b)(1) of the statute below, which allows for the start of school before Labor Day.
120A.40 SCHOOL CALENDAR.
(a) Except for learning programs during summer, flexible learning year programs authorized under sections 124D.12 to 124D.127, and learning year programs under section 124D.128, a district must not commence an elementary or secondary school year before Labor Day, except as provided under paragraph
(b) Days devoted to teachers' workshops may be held before Labor Day. Districts that enter into cooperative agreements are encouraged to adopt similar school calendars.
A district may begin the school year on any day before Labor Day:
(1) to accommodate a construction or remodeling project of $400,000 or more affecting a district school facility;
(2) if the district has an agreement under section 123A.30, 123A.32, or 123A.35 with a district that qualifies under clause (1); or
(3) if the district agrees to the same schedule with a school district in an adjoining state.
Q: Isn't it too hot to start school in August, especially when some schools are not air-conditioned?
A: The summer season, which extends from June to September, is the hottest time of the year in Minnesota. However, the temperature does not vary widely between late August and early September. The average high mean temperatures for August 20 versus September 5 vary by three degrees. There are days in early September when Minnesota has experienced high temperatures and we have not closed schools for issues of above normal temperature.
We take a proactive approach to planning for and managing hot weather days. Our Facilities Department staff and building engineers implement hot weather protocols to address issues of heat in our buildings. Our Health Services Department and Office of Emergency Management, Safety and Security also monitor weather conditions and provide guidance to staff to ensure student health and safety.
Q: Why did you extend the winter break from seven to eight days?
A: We took into consideration the logistics of the calendar as well as feedback from students, staff and families. The MPS calendar is not out of sync with other area school districts in terms of winter break. Anoka-Hennepin Public Schools, Osseo Area Schools and South Washington County Schools had seven-day winter breaks in 2012-13. St. Paul Public Schools had an eight-day winter break.
Q: Is it true that starting the school year before Labor Day hurts the state economy?
A: Although research indicates school start dates have a negative effect on tourism, the Minnesota tourism industry recently reported the highest revenue in five years.
What is taken away from state tourism is given back to the higher education industry, since more students can participate in college programs. Minnesota State Colleges & Universities (MNSCU) has set start dates of August 26 for 2013, and August 25 for 2014. MPS need more flexibility to coordinate and share Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) learning opportunities. In 2010, 203,000 students attended Minnesota state colleges and universities.
Q: Is it true that starting the school year before Labor Day has a negative effect on the Minnesota tourism and the State Fair?
A: The Minnesota School Boards Association has studied the impact on the State Fair and the resort industry. In their 2012 Issue Sheet they report the following:
According to the 2008 Minnesota Hospitality Association research, experts in the industry estimate the number of resorts in Minnesota dropped from 2,527 in 1970 to fewer than 900 resorts open for business in the 2007 summer season — a 65 percent drop. Rising lakeshore values were named as the culprit.
State Fair attendance has declined from 2009 to 2011, a trend that cannot be tied to schools’ early start dates. In addition, school districts are respectful of 4-H commitments and would likely excuse students who had such commitments. The 4-H component of showing projects and livestock for high school students occurs in the first week of the state fair. MPS believes that 4-H learning opportunities are beneficial for students, and districts want to support students and families.
Q: Isn’t the early start taking summer away from students? Summer recess should be for family time.
A: Minneapolis Public Schools feels it is more important for students to participate in educational programs than tourism. The MPS calendar allows between 10 and 11 weeks of vacation time, which we believe, provides ample time for family vacations.
An estimated 90,000 high school students begin extracurricular activities in the middle of August – including football, volleyball and many others that are sponsored by the Minnesota High School League.
Q: Why aren’t there more professional development (PD) days on contract?
A: Professional development days were converted into student contact days to increase the amount of time Minneapolis students spend in school. Prior to that, we had one of the shortest school years in the state. In 2013, we will be offering extensive opportunities for teachers to come together with their grade level or content area colleagues for professional development. The difference will be that they will have substitute teachers, where in the past, these days were specifically earmarked for PD and no students were present.