This year, for the first time, Hawaii state law will require students to receive a minimum number of instructional hours.
The mandated 990 hours of instructional time for academic year 2014-15 — compared to 915 hours last year — were signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2011 following a series of furloughs that resulted in Hawaii students having the fewest number of instructional days in the country. Public outcry led legislators to design a plan to incrementally increase the amount of instructional time provided to students at each school.
At the end of the last academic year, schools were required to submit for approval their new schedules to the Department of Education. The additional hours of instructional time were required without additional funding, so schools were forced to get creative in shaving off a few minutes from lunches, breaks between class periods and more.
Some schools will start earlier in the morning than in past years, while others will go longer into the afternoon.
For Hawaii Island, the earliest start time for classes this year will be 7:45 a.m. Among the schools beginning at that time are Pahoa Elementary, Kahakai Elementary, Honokaa High and Intermediate and Holualoa Elementary.
Meanwhile, the latest start to the day on the island is 8:15 a.m. at schools including Kealakehe High, Kealakehe Intermediate, and Konawaena High.
Isle closing times vary more widely, and change from day to day, with the earliest last bell coming at 12:25 p.m. Wednesdays at Honaunau Elementary, and the latest coming at 4 p.m. every Monday at Kohala High.
Heather Dansdill, who begins her first full year as principal at Hilo Intermediate after being appointed to fill in there in October last year, said earlier this month she doesn’t expect her students to experience much of a change.
“Our schedule hasn’t changed in the mornings, so that will be good,” she said. “They’ll still be starting at 8.”
Hilo Intermediate instructional hours are set for 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 8 a.m.-2:05 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“It’s a little bit of a change from last year, as we had to add some additional minutes into the schedule, but I think we’ve sent all that info out to the parents, so everybody should be aware,” Dansdill said. “The only thing that’s really been impacted is that our after-school programs will go later.”
Whereas last year the after-school programs lasted until 4:30 or 5 p.m., this year, they will last until 4:35 or 5:30 p.m.
“It will keep parents engaged longer, and it will be a benefit to us. It also allows us to offer the free snack program, so kids can get a snack before the start of their programs,” she said.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.