East Lansing Public Schools will be in session a week longer this coming year because of new standards set by the State and the District’s apparent decision not to seek an exception to the June calendar extension. No notice about this has come from the District administration, and so the change is catching off-guard many families with children in the East Lansing Public Schools.
Starting with the 2016-17 school year, all public schools in the state of Michigan are required to have a minimum of 180 “days of instruction” for students according to standards set by the Michigan Department of Education. This is a five day increase from the 175 days required in 2015-16, and has led some school districts, like Okemos Public Schools, to request and receive a waiver, so that the District can begin before Labor Day.
East Lansing Public Schools does not have a waiver, which seems to be the exception to the rule for schools in Ingham County. The Dansville, Haslett, Okemos, Leslie, Mason, Waverly, Webberville, and Williamston districts have all applied for and gotten a waiver to start classes before Labor Day, according to Dr. Scott Koenigsknecht of Ingham Intermediate School District (IISD).
Koenigsnecht verified for ELi that the only schools in Ingham County without a waiver to start before Labor Day are East Lansing, Holt, Lansing, and Stockbridge.
After the change in the State’s requirements, districts had a difficult choice: they could remove instructional days from breaks other than the official Winter and Spring breaks; they could request a waiver to start classes before Labor Day; or they could add the time at the end of the school year and finish school a week later in June.
According to Dr. Catherine Ash, Superintendent of Okemos Public Schools, Ingham County school districts do not have the option of cutting into Winter or Spring breaks to add the required days because all schools in Ingham County follow a base calendar that does not allow for changing those breaks.
It is unclear whether ELPS administration requested a waiver. Contacted (in some cases repeatedly) by ELi for comment, East Lansing Superintendent Robyne Thompson and East Lansing School Board members did not respond. But it appears that districts that requested a waiver received one, so it appears East Lansing’s administration did not request one.
According to calendars posted on the District’s web page, classes in East Lansing schools will begin the day after Labor Day for the 2016-2017 and end on June 16. Last year the last week of school was June 6-10, essentially a week earlier.
“We all knew it was coming,” says Okemos Superintendent Ash. “It’s been part of the legislation for a few years so we knew it was coming so there was no surprise. [The Michigan Department of Education] was very helpful. They said, ‘Look, if you really want a waiver, here are some things we need to see.’ They helped us frame it, they were very supportive as long as we could fit within their parameters,” she said of getting the waiver.
Ash added that Okemos had to add more days than most other schools to meet the requirements, so it is quite possible East Lansing was able find two or three days in their calendar to help meet the requirements. The additional week on the posted 2016-2017 ELPS calendar suggests strongly that the days couldn’t be found in the existing calendar, and were added to the end of the school year.