School calendar
survey has leader

A Department of Education report
also supports the proposal

A public-school calendar featuring a one-week fall break, a three-week Christmas holiday and two weeks off for spring break is emerging as the top candidate in the move toward a uniform statewide school year.

'1-3-2' in the lead

A survey to help select a uniform statewide school calendar beginning 2006-07 showed broad support for the following proposal:

School year begins: Aug. 3
Fall break: One week
Christmas break: Three weeks
Spring break: Two weeks
School year ends: May 31
Summer break: Seven weeks

The 1-3-2 option, which also features a summer break of seven weeks, drew the broadest support of five proposals in a survey of Department of Education staff, parents and students.

The department also leaned toward that option in a report accompanying the survey results that will be presented at a Board of Education meeting tomorrow.

The report notes that though other proposals elicited more positive responses, they were offset by high numbers of negative responses.

"(The 1-3-2 option) appears to be slightly more acceptable to the entire school community, albeit not outright the most desirable school calendar option," the report said.

The uniform calendar is to be introduced in the 2006-07 school year.

Over the past decade, many schools have moved away from the traditional calendar, with its two-week Christmas break, one-week spring break and a summer vacation as long as 10 weeks.

This school year, about 63 percent of public schools use various year-round configurations that shorten the summer break and allow more time off at other times during the year.

But the state wants to move to a uniform year-round calendar, citing problems in coordinating school transportation, payroll functions and other administrative issues. Parents who have children on more than one different calendar also face logistical difficulties.

Valerie Sonoda is happy that her kindergarten son's school is now on a year-round configuration, saying the traditional long summer typically leaves child-care gaps that parents must scramble to fill.

But she's not happy with the school's three-week Christmas break, instead casting her survey vote for an option featuring a two-week holiday.

"When you're a working parent and you're trying to make arrangements for child care, it's better if each time period is shorter," said Sonoda, who is legislative vice president with the Hawaii State Parent Teacher Student Association.

The survey asked respondents to rank the five different choices from most to least desirable. A 2-3-2 option -- featuring a two-week fall break, three-week Christmas break and two-week spring break -- won the highest "most preferred" rating. But it also had high negative ratings.

The 1-3-2 configuration, which earned low negative ratings in the survey, also is the most popular choice among schools that already have moved toward alternative year-round calendars.

Some advocates for year-round calendars believe having more and shorter school breaks will aid student retention of what they've learned.

However, the Department of Education report said: "Educational research regarding the (effect) of the school calendar on academic achievement is not sufficiently compelling in the support of any particular school calendar."

The state Legislature passed a law last year mandating a single school calendar as part of the Reinventing Education Act. The board must decide on an option by July 1.

State Board of Education
lilinote.k12.hi.us/STATE/BOE/HomePage.nsf?OpenDatabase State Department of Education

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