School vacations might be revised
There is little time for summer classes and repairs under the current calendar
The state Department of Education is re-examining a shortened summer vacation because of concerns the seven-week break is not long enough for schools to offer credit courses or repair facilities.
Education officials are planning to survey schools to get feedback on the unified calendar adopted last year.
Officials hoped to facilitate the schedule for parents with children in different schools or grades and prevent students from forgetting what they learned while away from school.
The winter break could lose a week to the summer under a plan to help schools offer courses that have been discontinued because of a unified statewide calendar.
That is just one idea that the state Department of Education is considering to increase the availability of summer programs, where students can recover credits or get ahead on subjects through enrichment courses.
Only 41 schools plus the online e-School have said they will have summer classes this year -- down from 53 in 2006 and 76 the year before -- as a result of a shorter, seven-week summer recess adopted last year.
The new calendar, featuring a week off in the fall, three weeks for Christmas and two weeks for spring break, was created to accommodate the schedule of parents with children in different schools or grades and prevent students from forgetting what they learned while away from school.
Education officials also called for a single calendar, citing problems in coordinating payroll and other administrative tasks.
But schools are having trouble finding teachers to volunteer for a summer class that now needs to be crunched in 30 instructional days, said Greg Knudsen, Department of Education spokesman. Some teachers prefer to use the time off to relax and prepare for the coming school year or go on trips, he said.
As the debate heats up, the Board of Education asked the department Tuesday to gather feedback from schools about the calendar.
"My problem with it is the selection of the calendar was based on what the majority of the people could live with," said board member Donna Ikeda, who was elected after the calendar had been launched.
"How does that fit in with educational goals?" she said. "I mean, convenience is one thing, but if you are trying to improve education, then you should have some educational goals and basis for why you are setting up the calendar the way you are."
The short summer break contributed to Kalaheo High School limiting its summer programs to credit-recovery courses for failing students, said Principal James Schlosser. But finding qualified teachers was just as problematic, he said.
The Education Department is planning to begin surveying schools in August to check whether the year-old calendar should be tweaked. Any change to the calendar would affect the 2008-09 school year at the earliest, Knudsen said.
Roosevelt High School Principal Dennis Hokama said education officials should have paid more attention to the impact the calendar would have on programs before approving it. Because graduation requirements are going up to 24 from 22 credits in a few years, summer classes have become key to preventing students from falling too far behind, he said.
Hokama believes the calendar should be left intact and that the department should try to offer additional classes throughout the school year, not just during summer.
"We've got to be a little creative," he said.