EDINA, Minn. - The Edina school board will vote Monday night on a controversial plan to start school one week early, in late August, before Labor Day, in an effort to add five more learning days in the classroom.
Minnesota law mandates school start after Labor Day, but school districts like Edina can apply for a waiver, for school construction projects exceeding $400,000, for year-round school or for more learning time in the classroom, known as "flexible learning year approval."
To preserve her 9-year-old daughter's summer vacation, Laurel Fischbach started a petition against Edina's plan to start school in August, adding five more days in the classroom. The online protest is now more than 300 signatures strong.
"The parents care a lot about their children's education from a whole standpoint, and when I say whole standpoint, it includes family time," said Fischbach.
The Minnesota Department of Education has tracked a rising trend of schools starting earlier over the past decade. In the 2013 school year, 59 Minnesota districts started before Labor Day, it's more than double when compared to the 2003 school year, with 21 districts starting early.
The 2013-14 proposed calendar in Edina starts Aug. 26, but with the same number of school days. Edina parents would like to make up the five earlier days somewhere else.
"Can we tack them on later in June, can you take them off from the full week you give for Thanksgiving here in Edina? Where else can we pull these days?" said Fischbach.
Education lobbyists are prepared to bring the debate to the State Capitol, as they have for more than a decade. The Association of Metropolitan School Districts has long rallied for an earlier start date to the school year to give students an academic edge in an age of achievement gaps.
Executive Director Scott Croonquist supports measures like lengthening the school year or transitioning to a year round calendar. He says earlier start dates should be a local decision made by school boards, and this legislative session Representative Jerry Newton, (DFL) District 37A, Coon Rapids, is drafting a bill to lift the post Labor Day start.
"State law should be focused on students, maybe not is what is best for the state fair," said Croonquist.
The Edina School board will meet at 7 p.m., and will vote on whether to apply for an earlier start date after taking public comment.
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