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Return decisions to school board level

For many years, Minnesota statute has required school districts to start school after the Labor Day weekend. The legislation was the result of lobbying from the tourism industry, hoping to capture end-of-season revenues from the traveling public. And the Minnesota State Fair wraps up its annual session over the weekend, which draws thousands to St. Paul, including youths who participate in 4-H and FFA.
The statute also requires schools to get special legislation passed to start school earlier than the Tuesday after Labor Day.
At a recent workshop session, the Glencoe-Silver Lake (GSL) School Board heard that in 2015, Labor Day falls on Sept. 7, which means school cannot start until Sept. 8, nearly a week later than usual.
We understand the tourism industry’s desire to capture as much Labor Day weekend revenue as it can — tourism is huge in Minnesota. But it ought not come at the expense of school districts and their students.
GSL Superintendent Chris Sonju pointed out at the workshop that if the 2015-16 school year started Tuesday, Sept. 1, children would have a full week of classes to prepare for mandatory testing.
And Business Manager Michelle Sander noted that if the Sept. 8 school start holds, there will be three football games and four volleyball matches before school begins, not to mention the other fall sports seasons.
Those families wishing to make Labor Day weekend plans are already contending with  working around football games, volleyball matches, cross country and tennis, and need to plan around those activities.
Those families could also plan around student-contact days. They already do that for the deer opener in November and the fishing opener in May. They already do that when they plan ice-fishing and snowmobiling trips for the Martin Luther King and Presidents’ Day weekends. They can certainly do that in September.
In years when Labor Day falls late, school districts ought to have the option to move the opening day to an earlier date — without permission from the state Legislature.
Sonju said the district’s local legislator, state Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, will have to sponsor a bill for the district to start earlier. The Legislature does not meet until January, and it may be spring before legislation is passed. That is horribly late for the school district to start making plans for its 2015-16 year.
We have no doubt Gruenhagen would willingly carry the bill. He has stated more than once that he believes local school boards are the best authorities for making educational decisions for their children.
We would like Gruenhagen — and his fellow legislators — to take the issue a step further: remove the requirement for special legislation to change the school start date and put the decision-making process back where it belongs, in the hands of local school boards.