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Life on Mackinac Island – Mackinac Island Public Schools

Mackinac Island, named #1 Island in the Continental U.S. by Travel + Leisure Magazine, is a popular vacation destination, but it’s also home to a thriving community. That’s right, many visitors don’t realize that around 500 year-round residents call Mackinac Island home. It’s not just a great place to enjoy Mackinac Island fudge and watch horses clip-clop by, it’s where families raise their kids, where teenagers experience their first jobs, and where lifelong memories are made.

Amy Peterson, the Mackinac Island Public School Superintendent, Principal, and Athletic Director, shares some insights about the unique experiences students, teachers, families, and administration get to be a part of as a Mackinac Island Laker.

Mackinac Island Public School elementary students learn to cross-country ski during physical education class.

School on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island Public School serves students grade Preschool-12th and is ranked as one of the safest schools in Michigan! This is something that is so important to us, the students and families, and our community.

Students at our school get to experience education like no other. They can ride bicycles, snowmobiles, or walk to school. When they arrive at school, they are in classes with an average of 7 other students, allowing for individualized instruction. Our students have a variety of unique experiences because of living on Mackinac Island. For example, students will cross-country ski along the shores of Lake Huron in the winter months for physical education class.

Extracurricular Activities on Mackinac Island

All our students have the opportunity for extracurricular activities and can play co-ed soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, and golf. The golf team gets to practice on the Jewel at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel! Our Robotics team is very active, and Mackinac Island was 1 of only 4 schools in the Upper Peninsula that offered Esports to our students last year.

When our students travel for sports and events, they ride the Mackinac Island ferry when the ferry is running or they take the airplane taxi and fly to St. Ignace. From there the students ride on our Mackinac Island bus to their destination. Mackinac Island is a member of the Northern Lights League, which includes Big Bay De Noc, Hannahville, Maplewood Baptist, Munising Baptist, Ojibwe, Grand Marais, and Beaver Island. When teams visit us, or we travel to their schools, students and coaches will sleep at the school. Getting refs and officials for sports can be challenging as well. They have to ride the ferry or fly and we’re fortunate that our Laker Boosters Fund, which includes money from fundraisers and two Mackinac Island foot races offered by Run Mackinac, pay for our refs to spend the night on Mackinac Island.

The Mackinac Island Public School track team poses for a photo during a meet at Lake Superior State University.

Community-School Partnerships on Mackinac Island

The community of Mackinac Island is extremely supportive of our school. All full-time enrolled students receive a pool pass for the famous Esther Williams Swimming Pool at Grand Hotel. Our students also benefit from the Mackinac Island Recreation Department with the opportunity to golf, play tennis, take swimming lessons, participate in horseback riding, and play t-ball during the summer.

The Mackinac Island Community Foundation gives out generous scholarships to our seniors each year. With our small class sizes, almost all students are guaranteed a scholarship. The Pulte Foundation awards at least 2 seniors $10,000 per year, renewable up to 4 years. This is an incredible opportunity for students and families to pursue a higher education.

Graduates in the Mackinac Island Public School Class of 2022 hold their diplomas while wearing cap and gown.

Free Preschool on Mackinac Island

For the last several years, Little Stone Church has given the school almost $10,000 each year for our preschool program. New this year will be free, full-day preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds who are Mackinac Island residents. We believe, and research shows, that students who attend high-quality preschool programs, tend to be more successful in later grades.

Mackinac Island is an amazing place for school staff as well! Mackinac Island Public School ranks #38 of 552 of the “Best Places to Teach in Michigan,” according to niche.com. Our staff believes that “it takes a village” to raise a child and they are constantly displaying this. I have observed teachers spending time with students before and after school and even on Sundays to support student needs. Our wonderful staff does a little bit of everything including fixing bikes, lending a shirt or tie for a special event, and some even take students to the mainland to practice for a driver’s license!

I am grateful to be a leader in a community where thousands of people only get to visit. This year, I will begin my third year as the Superintendent, Principal, and Athletic Director of Mackinac Island Public School. Prior to coming to Mackinac Island, I had been a teacher and elementary/middle school principal in Houghton Lake, Michigan. My husband and I live on Mackinac Island year-round. We have 3 grown children who love to visit us! My husband and I are originally from Manistique, and we love to spend time there at our cabin. I often share my mantra with our staff – “What do you want to be remembered for?” As I am working with students, families, staff and community, I always keep that in mind!

Photo illustration showing that Mackinac Island Public Schools ranks 13th in Michigan's Best Places to Teach

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