Starting next school year, Minneapolis Public Schools will resume classes a day after Labor Day — a statewide tradition for many school districts.
The change, approved by the Minneapolis school board at its regular meeting Tuesday night, would affect the school calendars for the next three years, beginning with the 2019-20 school year.
The state’s third-largest school district has one of the longest school years in the metro area, and for the past five years has been among the very few districts around the state to go back to school before Labor Day.
District officials say they initially wanted to see if a longer school year — 11 days above the state minimum — would offset budget deficits and increase student test scores. But starting school before Labor Day has not shown any improvement in students’ academic outcomes and has offered minimal cost savings, according to district findings.
Minneapolis Public Schools spokesman Dirk Tedmon said a district survey conducted last month showed strong support among parents for a shorter school year. About 85 percent of the nearly 7,100 Minneapolis families who took the online survey were in favor of starting school after Labor Day, he said.
But a survey conducted last year by the district showed a stark divide in opinion between white parents and parents of color. White parents welcomed a shorter school year as long as district officials maintained smaller class sizes. Parents of color, meanwhile, weren’t as supportive.
In August, the school board also voted to scrap the last two days of the 2018-19 school year. That means school will wrap up on June 7, and district officials will use the remaining days for professional development.
Leaders of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers said they support the change, but they noted that starting the school year post-Labor Day would shorten the amount of face-to-face contact days teachers have with students for some programs such as the International Baccalaureate program.
“For some programs it makes it tricky,” said Michelle Wiese, president of the federation, the union that represents the district’s 3,521 teachers. But “based on those family surveys, that’s what we kept in the front of our minds as we made our calendar decisions.”
Starting next school year, students in grades one through 12 will be in class for 171 days — two days longer than preschoolers and kindergartners.
In addition to a new school calendar, many families and students in 20 schools are also adjusting to new start times — a move district officials say would save roughly $2 million.