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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 3:32 p.m., Saturday, August 25, 2007

2008-09 school calendar approved

The Maui News

PUKALANI — The Board of Education on Thursday night approved the 2008-2009 school calendar, over the objections of two members who said the calendar's shortened summer break reduces opportunities for students and teachers, The Maui News reported.

The board members said the seven-week break limits students who may need remedial classes and teachers who want to take classes for professional development.

During the past summer, the number of summer school classes offered in all districts was sharply reduced because teachers or school facilities were not available.

At the board meeting in the Pukalani Elementary School cafeteria, members agreed to the start date for the 2008-09 year — July 24 for teachers and July 28 for students — although schools have the flexibility to determine when students will begin classes.

Although the Thursday motion was only to set the dates of the next school year, and not on the unified schedule that was implemented last year, two members voted no.

Board Member Donna Ikeda said the short summer break leaves little time for students who have failed a class and need to make up the credit during the summer.

"I don't see anything currently addressing the problem," she said.

She said it is even more of an obstacle since students now need more credits to graduate and also will have senior projects to complete. If students don't have the opportunity to catch up, they may give up on school and drop out, she said.

Ikeda also said there is an issue over the need for teachers to take classes during school breaks. While there is a demand for teachers to develop their skills, it's hard for teachers to take professional-development courses with the shortened summer breaks.

"We are not moving ahead, we are moving backward," she said.

"I'm concerned about this also," said Board Member Herbert Watanabe.

Watanabe said although the Hawaii State Teachers Association has no objections to the 2008-2009 calendar, the union apparently hasn't been listening to all of its members.

He said he had heard from teachers that they are opposed to the unified school schedule.

He also said students have told him they have a loss of income with a shorter summer break when they may look for full-time jobs.

Although DOE officials have said shorter summer breaks help reduce "learning loss," Watanabe said there is no scientific evidence to prove it.

Despite the criticism of the calendar, Board Member Breene Harimoto said discussion of the unified calendar will be at "another day and time." He said the board will await a report from Superintendent Pat Hamamoto on how schools are performing before discussions begin on what to do with the schedule.

Department of Education officials say they would like to continue with the current calendar to allow more time to evaluate how it is working. Hamamoto is scheduled to gather data in September to evaluate the calendar. Her report will then be given to the board.

Maui Board Member Mary Cochran said Friday that when the board initially voted on the unified schedule it decided the schedule would be maintained for two years.

"We're going to let it run its course," she said.

Cochran recognizes that there are different opinions on the new schedule and said those issues should be brought out in the DOE's report.

"It's going all over the place; some people like it, some people don't like it."

The Board of Education adopted the single school calendar for the 2006-2007 school year after complaints over the multiple schedules used by different schools even in a single district.

The unified calendar applies to all public schools except multitrack schools and charter schools. The 2008-09 calendar approved by the board Thursday includes a one-week fall break, a three-week winter break and a two-week spring break.

For more Maui news, visit The Maui News.