Summer break could gain 2 weeks
Changes expected to isles' school year
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Two years after being adopted, Hawaii's unified public school calendar is expected to be changed tonight.
The state Board of Education will meet on Kauai at 7 p.m. to consider extending the summer recess by two weeks while pulling away one week each from the winter and spring breaks.
A school board committee unanimously approved the proposed calendar in June, and several key members said yesterday they expect the board will approve the change tonight.
The goal is to give schools that have been unable to cram summer programs into seven weeks more time to offer credit-recovery and enrichment courses.
A statewide school calendar -- featuring seven weeks off in the summer, a week in the fall, three weeks for Christmas and two weeks in spring -- was launched in the 2006-07 academic year. It was intended to accommodate the schedule of parents whose children attended different campuses, streamline payroll and prevent kids from forgetting what they learned during summer breaks that lasted 10 weeks or more.
If approved, the new calendar would take effect in the 2009-10 school year.
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Summer break at Hawaii public schools would increase to nine weeks from seven while the winter and spring breaks would each lose a week under a new calendar likely headed for passage by the Board of Education tonight.
The state Board of Education meets tonight on Kauai to consider a new, statewide public school calendar that would increase the summer break to nine weeks from seven.
School starts around July 30.
» One-week fall break
» Two-week winter break
» One-week spring break
School ends around May 26.
Source: State Department of Education
School starts July 28.
» One-week fall break
» Three-week winter break
» Two-week spring break
School ends June 8.
The Department of Education is proposing giving schools more time off in the summer to offer students credit-recovery and enrichment courses and to allow teachers to take professional development classes.
Meanwhile, students returning from the winter break would have two extra weeks to prepare for exams generally taken in the spring, including the Hawaii State Assessment and advanced placement tests, said Robert Campbell, director of the Education Department's Office of Program Support and Development.
A school board committee voted unanimously in June to recommend the proposed calendar to the full board, which meets today at 7 p.m. at Hanalei Elementary School on Kauai. Several key members said yesterday they expect the board will approve the change tonight.
If approved, it would take effect in the 2009-10 academic year.
Despite the committee's preliminary endorsement of the calendar, school board member Breene Harimoto said he plans to vote against it or ask that a decision be postponed so that teachers and parents have an opportunity to react to the plan.
"It feels like there is almost no input, so that tells me people are not aware of the change," he said yesterday. "I'm just fearful that after we make the change, then people will come out of the woodwork."
A statewide unified school calendar -- featuring seven weeks off in the summer, a week in the fall, three weeks for Christmas and two weeks in spring -- was launched two years ago under a legislative mandate.
The goal was to accommodate the schedule of parents whose children attended campuses using different calendars and streamline payroll and other administrative tasks. The traditional summer break, some lasting 10 weeks or more, was chopped to seven weeks to prevent students from forgetting what they learned while away from the books.
But schools have been struggling to find teachers to volunteer for a summer program that now needs to be crunched into 30 instructional days, education officials have said, noting some teachers prefer to use the time off to relax and prepare for the coming school year.
In 2007, for example, only 41 schools plus the online e-School said they would have summer classes -- down from 53 in 2006 and 76 the year before -- because of the brief summer. About 5,600 isle students are in summer credit recovery programs, according to the Education Department.
"There certainly seems to be a growing consensus that a little bit longer summer would make it easier to provide meaningful learning opportunities," Campbell said.
Demand for remedial classes could also rise as graduates of the class of 2010 will need 24 credits to earn a diploma, up from 22 credits, said school board member Eileen Clarke.
"We would like to provide every opportunity for kids to succeed. That's our goal, despite the fact that it might not fit into people's vacation schedules," said Clarke, who missed the school board's committee meeting in which 10 of 13 voting members backed the calendar changes. "With the options we have now, that's educationally the most sound."
Not everyone agrees.
For teacher Corey Yasuda of Kaleiopuu Elementary in Waipahu, the current calendar's longer breaks spread throughout the year prevent teachers from burning out. He said teachers can take professional development courses during semesters and that schools should focus on ensuring every child is passing instead of worrying whether they will have enough time in the summer to help those falling behind.
"We need to better utilize our breaks throughout the year while we are working, as opposed to when we are on our summer break and we don't have students," Yasuda said.
Dole Middle School Principal Myron Monte said long summer breaks require teachers to spend more time revising lessons from the previous school year. But he said his school, which has not had summer instruction because few students have signed up, would not be able to offer the courses in seven weeks.
"It's a conflict in the pursuit of academic achievement," he said. "It's like a no-win situation."