[ OUR OPINION ]
Get public schools on
the same calendar page
THE academic benefits students receive in attending school year-round or on a modified calendar is reason enough for adopting such a schedule. Additional advantages for teachers, parents and administrators are icing on the cake.
Officials want to square public school schedules to help parents and students.
Traditional school schedules are based on the outdated custom of children helping with harvests and other farming activities during the summer months. Nowadays, the stretch of as long as three months away from the classroom leads to significant learning losses for many students. As a result, the first month or more of a new school session is spent reviewing material covered the previous year.
Those most affected are the already disadvantaged children from low-income families that cannot afford adequate child care, much less summer school or other academic instruction. But studies show that year-round and modified classes make the most of students' time, whether they be at-risk, disabled or top achievers. Another benefit is the reduction in disciplinary problems.
The Star-Bulletin's Susan Essoyan reports that about 60 percent of Hawaii's public schools have adopted year-round schedules with shorter vacations in winter, spring and summer rather than a long summer break. The Department of Education leaves the choice up to individual schools, but the teachers' union contract requires 80 percent of teachers at a particular school to approve a change. Thus, while parents and school-community councils may want year-round classes, some schools have not been able to win over teachers. Another problem is the three forms of year-round schedules schools may adopt.
As a consequence, parents with children in schools on different calendars must juggle vacation schedules that don't coincide and incur child-care costs when they cannot arrange time off from their jobs for each child's breaks. Meanwhile, the DOE must manage multiple calendars, a bureaucratic mess that requires myriad adjustments from payroll and retirement calculations and teacher assignments to school lunch preparations and student transfers from one campus to the next.
Eliminating the long summer break may cause some problems for teachers who use the time to take courses to enhance their professional qualifications. The DOE could help by coordinating such programs with colleges and universities and arranging for study leaves to accommodate them.
Teachers and administrators stand to gain from year-round schooling, too. Research shows that morale is higher and sick leaves and absenteeism lower at schools with year-round schedules because the employees get more frequent breaks.
State Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto strongly advocates year-round sessions not only for department efficiency, but more so because of advantages for students.