[ TEACHER STRIKE ]
Strike or not,With public schools closed because of the teachers strike, parents may be forgetting that it's time to start thinking about summer school.
DOE officials say parentsBy Christine Donnelly
should plan as though the
strike will not delay classes
But it is, with registration at the most popular classes expected to fill up in May.
Although the strike makes planning more difficult -- including for the public and private schools and private companies who are not sure how many kids to expect, and when -- experts advise parents to prepare as if the strike will end soon, meaning no extension of the regular school year.
"It's just better to be safe than sorry as far as planning. We hope it ends soon and doesn't impact the start of summer school. We're planning for the usual schedule," said Judy McCoy, the Department of Education's summer school coordinator.
The teachers strike began on April 5. If 20 instructional days are lost (a milestone reached May 3) the Board of Education would have to start considering whether to extend the school year to grant course credits. The limit is 20 days because that is how much the DOE already allows transfer students to miss without losing course credits, said DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen.
With working parents in most families, summer school is a yearly reality for tens of thousands of Hawaii kids. Some use the time to take remedial classes in subjects they have fallen behind in, others take advanced classes to get ahead on credits for the next school year, and most try to do something fun -- whether music, arts or sports -- they might have less time for during the academic year.
"That's the best thing about summer: You can do a whole lot of different things from week to week. Variety is the most fun," said Ray Sanborn of the company Kamaaina Kids, whose summer programs cost from $90 to $150 a week, plus discounts for multiple weeks.
Sanborn encourages parents to mix and match the company's programs, signing kids up for "say, one week of basic day camp, plus a week building robots at Bishop Museum and a week getting a junior lifeguard certificate" at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park.
Sanborn's company sent 70,000 fliers to public schools, but he is not sure how many of those were sent home with students before the strike began.
"I think you'll see a lot of companies having to do more advertising. We're buying TV time for the first time in years," in addition to the usual newspaper and magazine ads, he said.
Along with a variety of activities, summer also lets kids try a variety of campuses. Private schools with the most selective admission criteria during the school year generally open to everyone on a first-come, first-served basis during the summer. At some campuses that means a wholesale change in the student body.
"Probably the biggest difference is that there are boys on campus," said Sue Ann Wilson, admissions director at St. Andrew's Priory School for Girls, which offers coed academic and enrichment classes during the summer.
It also has classes for adults, including ceramics, driving instruction and English as a second language.
The girls at Sacred Hearts Academy also get a kick out of having boys in summer classes such as guitar, tennis, science and keyboarding, said summer school director Remee Bolante. "It's educational but also fun," she said.
For information on summer programs at private schools, check out the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools' Web site at www.hais.org. It links to the individual Web sites of most private schools in the state, and lists the phone numbers of the few that lack Web sites.
The DOE's McCoy said that about 68 out of 255 public schools are offering summer school this year. Last year, 21,000 kids attended on about 80 campuses.
She attributed the decrease in sites to uncertainty over the strike, the desire of teachers and administrators to take the summer off and the fact that tuition barely covers costs at many schools.
The DOE charges $140 per credit class, with 120 hours of instruction spread over four to six weeks, depending on the school, McCoy said.
Tuition waivers are available for needy native Hawaiian children, paid for by Kamehameha Schools.
Last summer, 3,000 lower-income students received the grants, she said.
Parents can find out more about what public schools plan to offer this summer by calling their district offices or by checking the DOE Web site at doe.k12.hi.us/summerschool.html. It lists a tentative schedule with registration dates and costs.
"Even with fewer sites, we're trying to offer classes people want the most," McCoy said.
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