UPDATE: List of starting dates by districts has been updated.
I previously announced the decision by our Board of Education to begin the 2017-18 school year on Monday, August 21. This is the result of a county-wide waiver request from the Department of Education to begin the year prior to Labor Day. You can read more about that decision in my previous post: 2017-18 School Calendar.
Below are responses to frequently asked questions regarding this decision. These questions come from throughout the county so some may not pertain to our decision to begin on August 21:
Why are some schools within Kent ISD starting the 2017-18 school year before Labor Day?
- The 20 school districts served by Kent ISD asked Kent ISD to petition the Michigan Department of Education for approval to start before Labor Day because so many districts, and students, are involved in early and middle college programs. Student participation in these programs is much easier if their school start times align with college start times.
What programs are these?
- The Kent Career Tech Center features many programs that have embedded college opportunities for students, but two – the Health Sciences Early College Academy, which is aligned with Grand Valley State University, and the Hospitality Fellowship program, with Ferris State University – require concurrent enrollment in high school and college programs. In addition, Cedar Springs, Kenowa Hills, Rockford and Wyoming all have early/middle college programs that require students to have class calendars that align with the college they are attending.
- In addition, Kent ISD and Grand Rapids Community College recently announced the creation of “Launch U,” an exciting new middle college program that will offer participating students three career preparation options for the rapidly expanding advanced manufacturing corporations in West Michigan. These programs offer the opportunity to earn an industry recognized credential or a specialized associates’ degree in a high skill, high wage field such as industrial technology.
Why do schools want all students to start before Labor Day if just some attend early college programs?
- Creating a calendar that allows students to complete their entire first semester of study prior to their holiday break is very beneficial to students, as they can focus on their coursework and complete end-of-term tests before taking a break. This is the norm in college and should be the norm in secondary schools, as it is beneficial to the student. Having a uniform start for students of all ages is more convenient for families, as many rely on older siblings to care for their younger brothers and sisters after school.
Which districts are starting before Labor Day?
- Nine districts and the Kent ISD are starting the week of August 21. They are Comstock Park, Grandville, Godwin Heights, Godfrey Lee, Kentwood, Kent City, Lowell, Wyoming and Thornapple Kellogg.
- Six districts are starting on August 28. They are Caledonia, Forest Hills, Grand Rapids, Kenowa Hills, Northview and Rockford.
- Five districts are starting on September 5, which is the Tuesday after Labor Day. They are Byron Center, Cedar Springs, East Grand Rapids, Kelloggsville and Sparta.
Why are some choosing to remain with the post-Labor Day start?
- All petitioned Kent ISD to seek approval from the Michigan Department of Education for a pre-Labor Day start but some, because of construction or bargaining agreements were not able to start before Labor Day for the 2017-18 school year.
Is this the new normal? I thought there was a “common calendar.”
- Districts are in a transition period. The Michigan Department of Education waiver allowing a pre-Labor Day start came when some already had plans in place for construction or a contract that called for a post-Labor Day start. We are working toward a common start date in future years as we recognize this is best for families. Under statute, the “common” portion of the calendar relates to holiday and spring breaks. All schools throughout the ISD will have substantially similar holiday and spring breaks.
My student attends programs at the Tech Center and our school does not start until after Labor Day. Will he/she still have the same programming as the students who started earlier?
- The Tech Center and local districts will make every effort to provide transportation and/or other accommodations such as online programming to make sure no student misses instruction due to the staggered start to the school year among Kent ISD districts.
My student attends a special education center program. Will he/she have programming even if my school district is not in session?
- Yes, we will follow the Individual Education Program in all aspects. Transportation will be provided if it is specified within the IEP.
What happens if I have already made plans for a family vacation in the two weeks before Labor Day and my school district is now starting early?
- Please meet with the building principal and discuss what you can do to ensure your child does not fall behind. All will work with their students and families to make sure students have every opportunity to keep up with their classmates and do not miss important programming that could set them behind.