Last-minute plans


POSTED: Friday, October 23, 2009

Homeless shelter resident Harrison Muraoka said he and his wife are still thinking of what they might do with their four children on the 17 days when schools will be closed, especially since both of them recently got jobs.

“;Frankly, we're not sure what we're going to do,”; said Muraoka.

As the first furlough school day occurs today, many parents are still looking for ways to care for their children.

Groups who have programs for child care say they have not experienced much of a surge in demand for their services, considering more than 170,000 students will be out of public school today.

“;It's less than we hoped for in terms of opening up programs,”; said YMCA of Honolulu President Larry Bush.

Bush said more than 200 children have signed up for “;Furlough Friday”; programs. Registration will continue today at YMCA locations as well as additional sites at Pearl Ridge Elementary and Manoa Park.

Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii official Jim Gagne said it is clear many parents are not choosing to sign their children up for alternative programs.

;[Preview]  Furloughs To Put Special Hardship On Local Homeless Families

Furlough Fridays will significantly hurt homeless children who depend on their schools for academics and a lot more.

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“;I think a lot of parents are staying home themselves. They're being furloughed themselves,”; he said. “;Those who aren't are relying on neighbors and relatives.”;

Gagne said his group is reassessing programs to attract teenagers on furlough Fridays.

Parents who are organizing a demonstration at the state Capitol today say the state needs to fund public schools so no furlough Fridays are necessary.

Kahala Elementary School parent Cyndy Meyer said the state's public education system already ranks low compared with other states.

“;Are we aiming for worst?”; Meyer said.

Meyer, who had to ask a friend's grandparents to watch her fourth-grade child today, said she fears students without adult supervision will get into trouble.

Magali Sunderland said a change in routine will have an impact on some of her seven adopted children, who have special-education needs.

“;Who is bearing the burden? It is the children,”; Sunderland said.

Terri LaCoursiere Zucchero, who works as a nurse at the Waikiki Health Center, said the parents most severely affected by school furloughs are the homeless, with more than 1,700 children statewide.

She said some families who are from the western Pacific have difficulty understanding English and do not understand what is going to happen on furlough Fridays. On those days their children will not be getting free school breakfasts and lunches.

She said she knows a woman with five children who recently got a job but now has to watch her children on furlough Fridays.

“;She's going to lose her job because she hasn't anyone to take care of them,”; she said.

Muraoka said he and his family have been living at the Next Step Shelter in Kakaako since June when they were evicted after he and his wife lost their jobs.

He said his wife got a job three weeks ago, and he is starting a job as a warehouse worker next week.

He does not know where his children will be on future furlough Fridays, but knows where they will be today.

“;We be at the big rally to get rid of ... furlough Fridays,”; he said.