Put education needs first in new calendar
The DOE is reconsidering a newly prescribed school calendar.
A FEW years ago, when the state Department of Education allowed public schools to choose yearly schedules to suit their needs, the varied calendars caused problems for administrators, parents whose children's vacations didn't match and teachers who weren't able to take classes or attend conferences because they were off schedule.
Education officials also noted that children lost ground during the traditional long summer vacations.
The remedy was to set a unified school calendar with shorter vacations spread through the year. It seemed like a good idea. However, now it turns out that the longest break of seven weeks in summer doesn't allow enough time for facilities to be repaired and, more importantly, curtails summer classes for children to either get ahead or to take remedial lessons.
Teachers have been reluctant to volunteer for 30-day summer classes, which would leave them with little time off to travel or prepare for the new school year. As a result, only 41 schools will have summer classes this year, compared with 76 in 2005.
The department might have anticipated these difficulties because in the past, several schools were operating on a year-round calendar that closely follows the current schedule. But as Board of Education member Donna Ikeda pointed out, the current calendar was chosen "based on what the majority of the people could live with" when it should have been set with educational goals foremost.
Accommodating student needs should be the basis, but the department also set out to satisfy the larger school communities. The department will survey schools again for possible changes. This time, it should consider, but not yield to popular requests.
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