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Community effort can help offset Furlough Friday issues

By Staff | Oct 22, 2009

The “Furlough Fridays” initiative is a done deal. There is not much that can be done at this point to prevent or delay the process that will cut 17 school days from the state public education system in the effort to balance the debt-tilted budget.

Hopefully, a proactive effort will emerge from the local communities to engender some sort of contingency education plan that will, at the very least, maintain Hawaii’s current position near the bottom of the country’s grading system. Perhaps most important of all, a plan will be developed to care for the elementary school children, whose general welfare and educational processes are being compromised.

There have been some streams of positive action from organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and Business Networking International (BNI), as well as several church groups, to create contingency activities for the children on the furlough days that begin on Friday, Oct. 23. Hopefully, efforts like these will serve to mitigate the strain on the affected families and the schools — particularly at the elementary level.

At the intermediate level, the community strategies will need to change to promote guidance into more specific study areas related to the class hours of the subjects they will miss. It will be up to the families of these keiki to maintain the educational discipline — i.e. getting up, eating a healthy breakfast and hitting the books for four hours — that is being cut.

For the high school age kids, this educational discipline should be shared by parents and teachers alike. The ideal would be for parents and guardians of the students to insist that their children maintain a regular school day schedule, including an early start, a healthy breakfast and at least four hours of specific study time, along with subject-specific study guides from the teachers.

Lahainaluna High School here on the West Side has already taken proactive steps in the right direction. Leslie Hiraga, the school’s Parent Community Networking Center (PCNC) facilitator, reported that the Lahainaluna administration has reallocated school hours by redistributing instructional minutes — basically putting the Friday schedule back into the four-day school week — to make up for some of the lost time.

Also, the faculty voted last week to turn professional development off days back into instructional days for the students, which will negate two of the furlough days.

An issue unique to Lahainaluna relates to the school’s Boarding Department, where students of the program will be required to leave the dorms on Furlough Fridays at 4 p.m. and not return until 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Upon entering the boarding program, these students listed local sponsors that will now need to step forward and take in the Lahainaluna boarders on those weekends. It is hoped that in situations where the sponsors are unable to take in the boarders, West Side community families will step forward to help out.

A total team effort from our community is needed to ensure a positive educational pathway into the future. It can be done. (By Walter Chihara)