Despite objections from hundreds of parents, Edina school officials voted unanimously on Monday to start the school year before Labor Day, beginning in 2014.
School officials originally had proposed an Aug. 26 start this year but agreed to postpone the early start until next year. School will begin Sept. 3 this year and Aug. 25 in 2014.
Edina will join a growing number of school districts -- 59 this year compared with 21 in 2003 -- that have switched to the earlier starts, saying it boosts crucial state and national test scores by giving students an extra week to prepare. Private schools such as Breck, Blake and Benilde-St. Margaret's already start in August.
But some parents contend district officials haven't made a good enough case for the early start.
"I want to be convinced that this is the right thing, but they have offered up no data to support this decision," said Chris Rofidal, a parent. "They said it would increase test scores, but they offered no data."
Rofidal said district officials should have surveyed parents and used a more diversified group of parents to help decide the issue.
Before Monday's meeting, parents opposed to the early start inundated school officials with e-mails and a petition with more than 250 signatures. Some parents appealed to state legislators.
For some, starting school before Labor Day violates a tradition that will cut into family time and vacations during Minnesota's precious weeks of summer.
Tourism officials also have opposed starting the school year in August, saying it cuts into resort business and State Fair attendance.
Minnesota is one of three states that mandate the post-Labor Day start, exempting districts if they submit a waiver for learning-related reasons such as a four-day school week or needing an early jump on spring construction projects of $400,000 or more -- the reason Edina would cite.
Earlier this month, Northfield nixed a proposal to start Aug. 13 after parents complained it would conflict with programs like 4-H.
Mary Lynn Smith