All public schools on Kauai will move to a 1-3-2 school calendar beginning in July.
The single school calendar calls for a one-week fall recess in October, a three-week winter recess in December/January, a two-week spring recess in March, and a seven-week summer vacation.
Over the last 10 years, schools have been trying different schedules. Currently 178 of 285 public schools — some 62 percent — operate on some modified calendar. With the variety, come additional costs. In order to be more efficient and to comply with the Re-inventing Education Act of 2004 (Act 51), the Board of Education approved the Department of Education’s official single school calendar.
For Hanalei School Principal Nathan Aiwohi, the single school calendar closes “an open wound.” Through the School Community Based Management (SCBM) system in use at that time, Hanalei decided not to join the other East Complex schools in moving to a modified calendar beginning with the 1999-2000 school year.
“One of the hardest things we have had to deal with on this issue is the idea of communication, or the lack of,” Aiwohi said.
He started a weekly bulletin, “Principal’s Connection,” to correct any misinformation and to keep a “positive outlook.”
Aiwohi brought up the modified calendar when he took over as principal in 2003-2004, but again the decision was to continue on the traditional calendar. Aiwohi said, although the calendar is a sensitive issue, attitudes have remained professional and very optimistic.
For Hanalei Elementary families with children at Kapaa Middle and/or Kapaa High Schools, the different schedules create some problems. Caridyn Colburn, a parent with three children at Hanalei Elementary and one child at Kapaa High school, said it is difficult to coordinate off-island trips and trips to the Mainland. It is also difficult to coordinate parent-teacher conferences. Grading periods or quarters are different, so report cards are distributed at different times if families are dealing with different calendars.
Colburn feels her high school daughter has an easier time transitioning back to school after a shorter summer. Her three at Hanalei Elementary have a longer summer and they seem to have a more difficult transition.
Colburn participated in the Parent Teacher Association discussions on the five calendars that were offered on a survey. She said she is “totally happy” about the decision to be on a single school calendar.
Aiwohi said he has about 20 out of approximately 150 families affected by the different schedules. He has tried to schedule waiver days and collaboration days (teacher work days with no students) so they “fell in line” with the East Complex breaks in order to support families. He said he noticed the attendance dropped when older siblings were on breaks.
In order to prepare for the earlier July 27 start for students, Aiwohi prioritized electrical up-grades for his Repair and Maintenance program. Classrooms will be hotter, and the electrical upgrade will enable teachers to run additional fans. Double-hung windows will be repaired or replaced by PVC windows. The ceiling of the oldest portable will be refurbished with insulation.
Principal Fred Rose came to Kilauea Elementary in 2000 when the school had already switched to a modified calendar. He has found it a “positive experience.”
On the modified calendar, breaks come at the end of each grading period, or quarter. Rose feels that the students are glad to know that the quarter is done and are ready for a break. When the two weeks of recess are over, they are ready to come back. “You get the sense of eagerness at the start of a new quarter and that’s neat to see,” Rose said.
Rose pointed out that the effect on academics is unclear. “You can find some studies that say (the modified calendar) helps and you can find some studies that say it doesn’t really help,” he said.
Rose is convinced, however, that people feel rested through-out the year and “burn-out” is reduced for both students and teachers.
The 1-3-2 modified calendar selected is slightly different than the 2-2-2 calendar that Kilauea Elementary follows. Rose said it will be interesting to see the effects of the calendar change. He said parents are encouraged to schedule family vacations around the scheduled schools breaks. It’s not always possible, but Rose feels the three-week winter recess might make a difference because families may be able to fit vacations in that time frame.
Rose said he hasn’t received much feedback on the new single calendar. He feels the one-week fall recess, rather than two, will still allow enough time for everyone to “regroup” and get going again.
Having one school in the complex on a different schedule did not present major problems. Rose said there were times when it would have been more convenient, but schools “still operate more-or-less independently.”
He said the same could be applied on the District level. Occasionally a workshop would be offered while his teachers were on vacation. Rose couldn’t mandate that his teachers attend, but often they would sacrifice their personal time off to attend a worthwhile workshop. “The question we need to ask ourselves is: ‘Should we have to ask them to sacrifice?'” Rose said.
Rose explained that the rationale behind the single school calendar is to save money. “Anything we can do along those lines is appreciated,” he said, “because we are dealing with inadequate funding.”
Once the schools on the traditional calendar try the modified calendar, Rose feels they will like it. Things will have to be done differently; for example, the custodians will not be able to do the deep cleaning of all rooms during the summer. They will have to figure out a rotating schedule. Rose says his custodial staff is so good at it, they actually manage to do more of the deep-type cleaning.
According to a Board of Education publication, the 1-3-2 schedule “affords a summer break that is amenable to professional development and additional educational opportunities.”
Rose agrees that his teachers seem able to take advantage of professional development opportunities during the summer.
As for extended student learning opportunities, Kilauea Elementary does not offer a traditional summer school. Offering classes during the breaks is based on demand. Rose said they may try to offer more remedial and enrichment programs, but it will be a challenge because they are dealing with “shrinking budgets.”
- Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer who regularly contributes education stories to The Garden Island. Questions or tips for her can be directed to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org