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Let’s Take Back Summer

I passed my local high school the other morning and at least 50 kids in football helmets and jerseys were out on the practice field. Now, Iím a high school football fan but when did football become a summer sport?

Nowadays, not only does football start in summer (my state calls for football practice to begin on August 1) but so does school! Iím talking about the fact that school, in most states, begins in mid-August instead of after Labor Day as was once the American way. What†this has†done is make a short summer even shorter, and thousands of businesses in recreation and tourism are being hurt. Itís time to call for a universal school starting date after Labor Day!

There is a growing trend to return to the post Labor Day school start and we need to get on board. Currently, 11 states reportedly have laws setting the start date. And the benefits are becoming clear.

Michigan is a great example. With solid support from the tourism industry, including boating and the Michigan Boating Industries Association, the legislature overcame strong opposition from teachers’ unions, and mandated that schools open after Labor Day beginning in 2006. The results†have been†impressive.

In a study commissioned by Cedar Fair Entertainment, 53 percent of hotels in Michigan reported higher or significantly higher occupancy levels in the last two weeks of August 2006†compared to†2005. Estimates suggested Michigan would enjoy an additional $10 million in tourism-related tax revenue from the increased business activity. Specifically,† the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit reported a 26,000-person increase during the two weeks prior to Labor Day in 2006 over 2005. Michigan Adventure Amusement Park near Grand Rapids saw a 42 percent increase in business the last two weeks of August 2006 compared to 2005. Great gains! And, while the study did not examine boating activity, itís logical to expect that Michiganís boating families continued to use their boats through Labor Day rather than ending their summer in mid-August. Thatís good for Michiganís dealers, marina operators and related businesses!

If Michigan can do it, it can be done everywhere. If schools start before Labor Day in your state, itís your time to move for change. If you have a local or state marine trade association (MTA), it should be a priority of your MTAís legislative program to get change. Join an alliance of tourism and recreation industries. Nationally, we are counting on the Discover Boating program to increase our sales. On the state level, we need to take back our summers so our customers and prospects can spend more time on the water.

Thatís the way I see it, how about you?


5 comments on “Let’s Take Back Summer

  1. John Wisse

    I wholeheartedly agree with Norm’s comments. Dayton public schools opend for the fall session August 6. None of those families will be boating the remainder of this year. And I seem to remember at one time when schools generally did not resume fall classes until the day after Labor Day, which was the final day of the Ohio State Fair. This year’s state fair opened August 1 and closes August 12. Suffice it to say, today’s school calendars leave little opportunity for kids to enjoy boating and to work summer jobs. I support a return to the tradition of beginning Ohio schools the day after Labor Day.

  2. TR

    I agree! Today, as I registered my kids for the new school year which starts August 23rd, it felt like we were cutting summer way too short. The summer recreational sports leagues (softball, baseball) have just ended and there should be plenty of days for swimming, golf, tennis and BOATING while the weather here in the Midwest is still conducive for these fun activities. I hope more states follow the lead of Michigan. While I am sure there are “administrative” reasons for the early start, the reality is that Labor Day weekend serves a “mini interruption” and kids have get re-focused again that first week of September anyhow. Let’s take our summer back!

  3. Rob

    I am a boat dealer… AND a Michigan public school teacher. I can say with certainty that it is NOT the teachers who are pushing to start school for kids before Labor Day. In fact, teachers will tell you there are many reasons why it doesn’t work… not the least of which is that many families ignore the before-Labor Day start anyway and keep their kids out. They will tell you that it is for important family bonding time. But for the teachers, it is difficult to begin a new class of students when 3 or 4 or 5 students are missing for the first week of school.
    The push to begin begin school earlier (and make it last longer) comes from the political realm where legislators and politicians have used certain studies and scores, often erroneously, to worry parents and browbeat school districts. And since the education of children is a complicated issue, easy fixes get top bill– like spending longer in the classroom.
    I for one would like to see more quality family time boating, fishing, and enjoying the great outdoors. THAT will improve confidence in the classroom, broaden a child’s experience, and give them an appreciation of the great natural resources which we have been granted.

  4. Gene Myers

    I must agree 100% with what you are saying. My senior in High School starts school on Aug 9th and it just does not feel right. I have taken the liberty of sharing your thoughts with our local Chamber Prsident and the head of our Convention and Visitors Bureau. Here in Coastal Alabama, tourism is the engine that runs the economy and a few more weeks of fuel would be a welcome change. Many of our customers get out of the mood for boating when summer comes to a screeching halt. This should be looked on as an industry iniative with the entire boating industry’s muscle behind it.

  5. Van Snider

    I am pleased to see Norm write an excellent article on this issue. Norm touched on the fact that this was not just a Michigan Boating Industries Association in passing post Labor Day school opening in Michigan. We put together a collaborative effort with other tourism interests and first passed legislation to close schools on the Friday before Labor Day to show what a four day weekend would generate in boating, travel, etc.; i.e. economic benefit. After reviewing the numbers, we went to the legislature and lobbied for a mandatory school start after Labor Day and succeeded. My point is- partnering with other organizations and groups is the way to go on this issue and other states can win that battle. Additional benefits: many of these students work in marine businesses during the primary boating and vacationing season- we keep them in our b usinesses longer when we need the help.

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