Local school districts fight to start before Labor Day

Although students complain every year, Benilde-St. Margaret’s has started school before Labor day for over 26 years. Now public school districts in the metro area would like to get rid of the law prohibiting public schools from starting before Labor Day. While schools hope that starting earlier will improve test scores, resorts and State Fair workers will continue to fight this change which could ruin business.


In 1985 the Minnesota Legislature passed a law that prohibits public schools from starting before September first. Since then several school districts throughout the state have been granted the right to open one or more of their schools before Labor Day. In a mandate by the Minnesota State Legislature, they suggest repealing the Labor Day start date and allowing school districts to set their own start dates instead of adhering to the statewide law.

Starting before Labor Day allows more time for students to prepare for standardized and AP tests. Extending the school year into June isn’t a viable option because the majority of these tests take place before the end of May. For this reason the only other option for school districts, without reducing the number of days off during holidays, is to start before Labor Day. The Edina school district received approval to start before Labor Day, and Edina’s online school calendar projects this new change for the 2014-2015 school year. This new schedule will still have the same number of school days and will loosely follow the nearby school calendars of BSM, Blake and Breck.

The Edina school district is not alone in wanting to start before Labor Day. Recently Northfield has tried to make a move to change the school start date, but parents squashed a proposal to start the year on August 13. There are already 59 districts that have been granted exemption from the start date for the 2013-2014 school year.

Although it is a nuisance for schools to start so early, for students involved in fall athletics and activities, the earlier start date has a minimal impact on their schedule. “If you combine [the start date of school] with our fall athletics, [the program] starts two weeks before school starts. So families are back in town for athletics, and most students are involved in some sort of fall activity. So I think that it just makes it easier for families,” said Dr. Sue Skinner, BSM senior high principal.

BSM needs a total of 175 days during the school year where students must be in attendance. Therefore, in order to keep the school year from running too far into the month of June the administration continues to start the year in late August. “[Starting before labor day] gives us more flexibility during the school year. So if we started after Labor Day we would have to go into June, and that just feels too long,” Dr. Skinner said.

For the tourism industry in Minnesota the possible shift in start date by schools across the state could be dramatic. Families that enjoy spending time at cabins up north during the last weeks of August will have to forego their annual end of summer trips or find a new time to get away from the cities. “Because Labor Day weekend is such a common time for parents to want a vacation, I think people who normally come on Labor Day would either try to rent a cabin earlier in the season or skip the idea altogether,” said junior Avery Bather, whose parents own a resort.

A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota Tourism Center concluded that: family trips longer than two nights will decrease by 50 percent in August or September if school starts are moved to before Labor Day; the study also concluded that there will be decline of 30 percent in family overnight travel between the months of May and September.