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Longer school day may have to wait until economy improves

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Given growing budget woes, the state Department of Education is seeking to push back implementation of a new law that would lengthen the school day starting this fall.

“We are committed to meeting the requirements,” said schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “But the current economic realities are such that we are seeing it as an extremely difficult thing to accomplish.”

The new law, signed in June, requires elementary schools to have a minimum of 915 hours of instruction (about five hours per day) in the 2011-12 school year, while middle and high schools are required to have 990 hours of instruction (5 ½ hour average).

In 2013-14, those minimums are to increase across the board to 1,080 hours.

The law also requires schools to offer a minimum of 180 school days.

An amended Senate bill heard today would push back implementation of the law to 2016, but would require the department to provide annual progress reports starting next school year on its efforts to comply with the law.

The law grew out of the angst and anger over teacher furloughs last school year, which gave Hawaii students the shortest instructional calendar in the nation.

Several parents testified today against pushing back implementation, saying some schools are already meeting the minimums and those that can’t should seek exemptions through the Board of Education.

“We’ve had a year to look at this,” said parent Melanie Bailey, who helped write the minimum-hours law. “I think we need to know where Hawaii stands right now. I think we need to see some facts and not just take it on their word.”

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