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Addressing questions about reopening of schools and SY 2020–21

As the current school year comes to a close, HSTA works to clarify critical next steps in COVID-19 response

As the school year comes to a close, many Hawaii State Teachers Association members are inquiring about plans for school year 2020–21. We understand and acknowledge that we are all operating under a great deal of stress and anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic, and that members may be dealing with personal situations that impact their ability to focus on their work.

HSTA has been in ongoing discussions with the Hawaii State Department of Education regarding the response to COVID-19. With the closing of the 2019–20 school year and announcements of summer programs, we expect to move forward in consultation and bargaining over the reopening of schools.

Superintendent’s public statements regarding SY 2020–21

On Thursday, May 14, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto was interviewed by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Following this interview, the HSTA formally notified the employer that we are demanding impact negotiations over the reopening of schools. This demand is largely based on the superintendent’s comments that the reopening would include blended learning, staggered start-ups, opportunities for families to keep their children home, and the need to split the “teaching body between online learning and in-person learning.” 

View our letter here

Are schools allowed to open?

This week, Gov. David Ige unveiled his strategy to reopen the state and revive Hawaii’s economy. On May 18, the governor announced that Hawaii had moved into COVID-19 impact level “act with care,” which allows educational facilities to open with “physical distancing and safe practices” (page 9). This allows school buildings to begin to reopen to receive students and teachers during summer learning. 

Related post: What members involved in summer learning programs need to know

What will happen at the start of SY 2020–21?

Speculation and discussion are actively occurring throughout the state as it relates to 2020–21 instructional schedules, methods, and necessary COVID-19 health and safety protocols. We confirmed that complex area superintendents have been asked to engage their principals in discussion regarding possible designs for the next school year, taking into context a school's unique needs as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state Department of Health (DOH) guidelines. These discussions are by no means final plans, but we appreciate that schools are being given the opportunity to give feedback regarding these critical changes.

Regardless, many teachers are understandably anxious about what will happen. We don’t yet have specifics, and we want to assure members that our focus continues to be addressing teachers’ changing working conditions and ensuring that teachers continue to be properly paid. We feel an added sense of urgency on these discussions as we know multi-track schools are scheduled to reopen in July. In regards to reopening schools, the CDC recently published this decision flow chart.

As we discuss reopening schools, HSTA has identified three broad areas of focus: 

  1. Ensuring a safe working and learning environment, which includes health, safety, sanitation and proper social distancing (see below for additional CDC guidance).
  2. Instructional schedules and methods, including the need to continue some distance learning.
  3. Time and ability to address student learning needs, especially adjustments for lost learning and/or services.

HSTA will continue to update members on the reopening of schools for SY 2020–21. Please stay in contact, especially over the summer, and check our website, Member Matters email newsletter, and social media for the latest developments.

Members who need assistance or have questions are encouraged to work with their HSTA school-level leaders, contact their UniServ Director, and/or contact HSTA via this online form.

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