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StarBulletin.com

Schools seek to swap training days to keep classes going for students


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POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some schools are trying to soften the impact of Furlough Fridays by switching teacher training and collaboration days to instructional time, but most can restore just a few classroom days at this point in the year.

The deadline to file waiver requests with the Department of Education for such schedule changes is the close of business today. Jill Zodrow, educational specialist for the School Community Councils, said yesterday afternoon that she couldn't estimate how many schools have filed requests.

“;They are coming in fast and furious,”; she said. “;We have no idea at this point how many. We haven't taken time to count. We're just processing.”;

Schools may also request to extend the school day on Wednesdays, when students are normally dismissed early to allow for staff meetings. That could help make up for instructional time lost by the state's decision to close campuses 17 Fridays this school year to save money.

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Various campuses contacted by the Star-Bulletin said they were planning to restore three days of instructional time at most. School staff may use up to six days for professional development and collaboration during the academic year, but most schools have already used a few of them.

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McKinley High has four waiver days remaining in the school year but two already fall on Furlough Fridays. So there were just two waiver days left that could be converted to instructional days.

“;We decided to change all of our planning and collaboration and waiver days back to instructional days,”; said Principal Ron Okamura. “;It sounds like a lot, but there were only two remaining that could be changed over. “;

Kaiser and Roosevelt high schools plan to convert their remaining three waiver days to instructional time.

“;Our teachers have from the very beginning been very concerned about the loss of instructional time,”; Kaiser Principal John Sosa said yesterday. “;We all recognize it's important to have kids in school.”;

Castle High School has a planning and collaboration day that falls on a Furlough Friday, and it is canceling that day for teachers and not rescheduling it. That won't affect students, however, since they weren't to be at school that day anyway.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie announced yesterday he had met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in hopes of finding money to restore furlough days.

“;We are about to rob 17 days from our children's school year—days they will never get back, days they need to be in school,”; Abercrombie said. “;The U.S. Department of Education is working with me to find every potential additional dollar that might be used to keep Hawaii's public schools open and operating for the full academic year.”;

While the state has received federal stimulus money to help bolster education, it is not available to restore furlough days because it has already been applied to the biennium budget, according to Linda Smith, Gov. Linda Lingle's senior policy adviser. The Office of the Governor, for example, applied for and received $105 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Education Grants, but that money did not increase local spending on education.

“;The way in which the Legislature appropriated that money, they reduced state dollars going to the Department of Education and substituted federal dollars,”; Smith said. “;Because our revenues are falling, all state agencies are having to reduce their expenditures.”;

“;If Congressman Abercrombie is indicating there might be additional federal funds, we would welcome that.”;