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Tourism officials frustrated after a record number of Michigan schools began before Labor Day

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A 2006 law requires Michigan public schools to start after Labor Day. But schools can apply for waivers to get around the rule.

A 2006 state law says Michigan public schools must start after Labor Day. But this year, a record number of school districts received waivers to start before the holiday -- and tourism officials in the state aren't happy.

The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, also known as Check In Michigan, says the law has had a positive affect on the tourism industry. The group now worries that more schools starting before Labor Day could reverse that impact.

Representatives from Check In Michigan were unavailable to comment for this story, but in a press release, CEO Deanna Richeson wrote that early start dates can “rob students of opportunities to gain valuable work experience in Michigan’s lodging, hospitality, and tourism industries.”

“What we’re seeing today is a school calendar shell game that doesn’t improve kids’ educational outcomes, and is preventing opportunities for on-the-job learning,” said Richeson.

Montabella Schools, located near Mt. Pleasant, have started before Labor Day for the past several years to accommodate students who participate in the school district's early college program. Superintendent Shelly Millis says the area isn't a major tourist destination, so an earlier start doesn't impact student jobs.

“Our students that have jobs are not typically employed by tourism. So it didn't impact our community,” she says. “If I was a superintendent in a different school district in Michigan, I might have a completely different view.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, the number of schools receiving early-start waivers has increased from 26 in 2012 to about 150 for this year.

Maya Goldman is a newsroom intern for Michigan Radio. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, where she studies anthropology and writing. During the school year, Maya also works as a senior news editor and podcast producer for The Michigan Daily.
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