Hot classrooms prompt DOE to rethink starting school year in July

Air conditioners to cool down classrooms are the obvious solution to dealing with the heat.

But many of you have also asked about the school year calendar, wanting to know why the kids have to start so early.

This school year, most public school students returned to class on July 29, smack dab in the middle of summer.

In light of recent heat issues, including students and teachers getting sick, the Department of Education is revisiting the school calendar.

In two weeks, department officials will finalize the recommended calendar for consideration for next school year.

An internal survey asks five questions, including “How important is it to have a one-week fall break?” and “How concerned are you about student attendance during a week with three school days?”

Some principals and teachers tell KHON2 they are aware of the latest survey, while some teachers say they learned of it when we told them.

“I don’t know if moving it later is actually going to help, because it’s so hot until the end of October,” said parent Heather Morgan.

In April, the DOE reached out to parents asking for input on the school year calendar, but that was long before the recent heat problems.

Gigi Jones, a parent and the creator of the Cool Our Keiki Facebook group, said, “I think it’s good to get feedback from everyone — the teachers, the parents, the students. I also think it’s important we look at the big picture here and possibly starting school after Labor Day might give us some cooler days. But we are still looking at cooling down classrooms and upgrading facilities.”

Jones says changing the calendar year is just a band-aid solution to solve the heat problem, while others parents say the school year should start later.

“It’s too hot in August. My kids are super hot when they come home. My son has had to be in the health room a few times because of the heat,” said parent Sasha Ilaban.

In April, the DOE said it previously developed the school calendar based on prior calendars with input from teachers.

We wanted to know how this would impact the contract with the teacher’s unions, and were told the contract issues depend on the changes made. We also reached out to the teachers union, but we were told to check with the DOE.

The DOE says it will continue to work with unions, the Board of Education and lawmakers.

The calendar up for consideration will be reviewed on Oct. 6 at a Student Achievement Committee meeting.

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