The Minneapolis school board is expected to approve tonight a calendar for the 2009-10 school year that brings students back to class on Sept. 1, about a week before Labor Day.

District officials said starting after Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 7 this year, would mean losing a week of class time before state testing and pushing summer recess into mid-June, which could hurt high school students' chances to find summer jobs and internships.

Still, state law prohibits schools from starting before Labor Day except under special circumstances. The Minneapolis public schools, the state's third-largest district, plans to petition the state Department of Education for a waiver for the early start because it's juggling a construction schedule that includes about $400,000 in maintenance projects.

Anoka-Hennepin and St. Paul, the state's two largest school districts, already adopted their calendars for the next school year. Classes will start after Labor Day on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

"This isn't completely new," said Erin Glynn, an assistant to the Minneapolis academic affairs chief. "In the past 10 years, we've started school before Labor Day [at least] two times."

According to data released last summer, only 12 of the district's 81 schools met state testing benchmarks during the 2007-08 school year. The district's schools are on a growing list of those in the state designated as not making "adequate yearly progress" under federal education laws.

Under the proposed calendar, Minneapolis' winter break would remain at two weeks, but students would attend school the day before Thanksgiving and district staff would lose one training day in March. Overall, the school year would grow by one day to 172 days. Classes would end on June 8.

The St. Paul public schools will start classes on Sept. 8 and end June 11. St. Paul cut winter break from two weeks to a week and a half to ensure an adequate number of school days with the late arrival of Labor Day.

Anoka-Hennepin, adopting its calendar on Feb. 9, shaved a few days from its winter and spring breaks, district spokeswoman Mary Olson said. Classes end June 10.

Minneapolis' 2009-10 draft calendar was developed by a committee that included teachers, principals, parents and support staff from schools throughout the district.

So far, opposition to the earlier start has been muted, but district officials said they realize the change will likely cut into vacation plans and trips to the State Fair. Glynn said: "We know we'll have to get the word out ahead of time because [in the past] some families were still registering during the first week of school."

Patrice Relerford • 612-673-4395