MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) Though it's summer break for most students right now, administrators are already thinking about how the 2016 academic calendar will look. Starting in the fall, class will be in session for a few extra days due to new Michigan legislation.
Every school year, Michigan students from elementary to high school are in class for a minimum of 1,098 hours. Starting this upcoming school year, all Michigan schools that receive state aid will be required to have at least 180 days of school. This is a five day increase from the prior requirements of 175 days.
"Well we're still looking at having to meet the 1,098 hours, but we now have 180 days in which to do that,” said Deb Asano, Associate Superintendent for teaching, learning, and technology services at Marquette Alger RESA. “180 is the minimum number of days of instruction, and that requirement has been going up slowly over the last couple of years. The idea is to try to increase the number of days and consistency of instruction."
Any district that fails to comply with these new requirements would end up forfeiting money from their total state aid allocation. The new requirements are a part of a national push to for United States education to become more competitive with international education, as well as to reinforce learning and decrease summer-slip. However, schools can have their requirements waived if they apply for and are granted permission to have an alternate education program such as a four day school week.
"We're also seeing a number of schools experimenting with year-round or balanced calendars to try to, again, round out that learning over a year and diminish any summer loss," said Asano.
Republic-Michigamme schools have been doing that for over a decade now with their own four-day school week. A four-day school week means classes are only four days a week rather than the typical five days, but school days are longer than a regular school week. Republic-Michigamme meets from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"Realistically, we don't expect this to affect us much because we are on a waiver from the deviation of what the state does day-wise,” said Kevin Luokkala, the Republic-Michigamme Superintendent. “However, we still must comply with the hour requirement. If the state decided to require we have 147 days to 146, we wouldn't be surprised, but we don't expect any kind of complications as far as what our schedule has been."
Administrators insist this change will do nothing but help students, by offering them more valuable time in the classroom.
“Even having an extra five days of instructional time, if you start looking at what those minutes look like, that's another project, another unit, another set of lessons, another opportunity to pre-teach going into the next year, or to re-teach some concepts that have been difficult,” said Asano. “That’s always a good thing, to have some extra time. Time is a valuable resource, and you probably gain more by adding full days to the school year rather than just a couple minutes to each day."
Administrators also say schools in the Marquette area will not see much of a change to the calendars they’ve had in previous years because they have already been adding days to their school years in preparation for the change.