Wisconsin School Year Start Dates–Explained

Students get off the bus on their first day for the 2023-2024 school year in Black River Falls. Photo Courtesy Black River Falls School District

By Salina Heller

August 31, 2023

Why some districts start mid-August, while others wait ‘til after Labor Day.

Over the years, there’s been a lot of discussion over the school start date being before or after the September holiday.

By state statute, the school start date is Sept. 1.

Why Sept. 1?

First, it gives families a few more weeks to enjoy Wisconsin’s summer weather, travel, and support the state’s small businesses who depend on tourism.

A later start date also gives student employees the opportunity to work through the Labor Day weekend.

But that’s not the case for all students, like those in the Stanley-Boyd School District, who started the new school year August 14. 

That’s causing many to wonder: How can back-to-school dates vary so greatly in a single state?

We asked Chris Bucher of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to answer your most-asked questions:

When does the new school year officially start in Wisconsin?

Photo Courtesy Black River Falls School District

As stated on our website and in Wisconsin State Statute, the typical school start date is no earlier than Sept. 1. 

How are some districts in session before then?

School boards can request permission from the DPI to begin before Sept. 1, as long as they follow our guidelines.

Why would they want to do that? 

This is a district decision, and there are many, varying reasons why a district may choose to request permission. They could have major construction projects that require an earlier start date. For example, in the Stanley-Boyd School District, construction projects are slated for next summer, so this year’s early start date of Aug. 14 allows crews to get a jump on the job next year.  

How many days do Wisconsin schools need to be in session?

While there used to be a provision for school days, this was changed to instead incorporate instructional hours. Every school needs at least 437 hours of direct pupil instruction in kindergarten, at least 1,050 hours in grades 1-6, and at least 1,137 hours in grades 7-12.

What about snow days?

Our state laws include the flexibility for schools to innovative instructional design on days when school is closed or canceled because of inclement weather. Since COVID, there’s definitely been increased flexibility for schools to utilize virtual learning time in place of in-person instruction.

Photo Courtesy Black River Falls School District



Author

  • Salina Heller

    A former 15-year veteran of reporting local news for western Wisconsin TV and radio stations, Salina Heller also volunteers in community theater, helps organize the Chippewa Valley Air Show, and is kept busy by her daughter’s elementary school PTA meetings. She is a UW-Eau Claire alum.

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