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Monday, June 1, 2020

ARCHIVE: Frequently asked questions relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) and schools

This post contains FAQs that address outdated scenarios or are no longer relevant

This post contains FAQs that address outdated scenarios or are no longer relevant. The information presented in this post is meant for archive purposes only.

Click here for our current FAQs relating to coronavirus and Hawaii’s public schools

What is the current status of school closures related to COVID-19?

All public schools are closed through at least April 30. The HSTA is relieved and grateful that the HIDOE is following state and federal guidelines and county-directed stay-at-home, work-at-home orders. Please review the following communication from the HIDOE. — March 29, 2020

Will we get paid if schools are closed?

Yes. We don’t anticipate pay stopping as teachers continue to work from remote locations. — March 29, 2020

What about summer school?

HSTA does not represent teachers who teach summer school or e-school. As such, the HSTA contract does not apply to those employees. Summer school and e-school are considered casual employment, and we do not have information regarding the pay rate, working conditions, or hours for summer school and e-school teachers. In a press conference on Friday, April 17, 2020, the superintendent indicated that the HIDOE is currently reviewing all of the options for summer school and credit recovery. Here is the latest information from the HIDOE regarding summer school. As soon as we have more information, we will pass it along. — April 20, 2020

Now that schools are closed, are we required to teach from home (e.g., online)?

The HSTA came to a signed agreement with Superintendent Christina Kishimoto regarding working from remote locations as of March 23 through the duration of the school closures.

On March 24, the superintendent issued a memo stating “school facilities will be closed to students until at least April 30 and traditional in-school instruction is on hold until schools reopen.” She also said that schools “will be sending out information about enrichment opportunities, including online resources and instructional packets.” 

The closures mean that the agreement reached with the superintendent continues to be in place. Teachers are working remotely and will be expected to continue to work within the scope of their classroom or non-classroom position.

The following language from our letter of agreement with the superintendent should guide all classroom teachers in their preparation and delivery of learning and enrichment activities:

IV. COVID-19 School Closures

A.   Classroom teachers shall assess their students’ essential educational needs in alignment with a school’s instructional plan, and determine the learning and enrichment activities needed for students for the duration of COVID-19-related school closures.

Classroom teachers shall have the freedom to use their professional training and judgment to determine the scope and method to be utilized in providing appropriate learning and enrichment activities in alignment with a school’s instructional plan.

B.   Non-classroom teachers shall assess their current work in consultation with their supervisor to prioritize the most essential functions which can be done during school closures due to COVID-19.

Non-classroom teachers shall have the freedom to use their professional training and judgment to determine the scope and method to be utilized completing their work tasks.

A memo put out by the department related to third-quarter grades states that educators will be implementing “remote enrichment opportunities to ensure continuity of learning. Continuity of learning provides continued learning opportunities to maintain or enrich what student learned prior to Spring Break.”

A subsequent department-issued memo dated March 27 further defines continuity of learning as “providing learning activities to maintain and enrich what has been taught. These plans could include offline activities or e-learning, including distance learning options, as feasible and appropriate. These activities can be delivered through different distance learning systems, including printed materials, online, or a combination of printed and online materials.”

The memo also links to a series of resources for teachers. Please note, this site is not open to the public and employees must be logged in with their work Google accounts to access it. — March 29, 2020

Am I expected to communicate with students and parents during the school closure?

Yes. It is every teacher’s responsibility to communicate. This is not a new concept and all teachers should communicate with parents on a regular basis throughout the year.

During the school closures, you should make clear with students and parents regarding the best way to reach you and how you plan to communicate with them. For most teachers, that means through email, Google Classroom, or other digital means. For others, it may mean a phone call. We encourage teachers to utilize technology such as Google Voice to create cost-effective methods to talk and text with students while keeping their number private.

If you have concerns related to accomplishing this communication, especially if you have resource limitations, please speak with your administration. — March 29, 2020

If schools are closed, will the school year be extended?

Members and the public continue to speculate about an extended school year. HSTA has made it clear to the employer that any such decision would require bargaining before implementation as it impacts working conditions. In addition, please see the signed agreement with the superintendent, which references the requirement to negotiate any change in the work year.

The department has not proposed to extend the year, nor is it something HSTA would advocate for. An extension would require millions of dollars a day and could negatively impact students, especially seniors. There is also no realistic way to extend the multi-track school year as they have no extra days in the school calendar. — March 29, 2020

On April 7, the HIDOE issued a 30-page document titled “HIDOE Guidance for Long-Term School Closures Graduation, Promotion and Grading.” This document contains information related to seniors and graduation, fourth-quarter grades and report cards, assessments, supports for students’ emotional well-being, plans related to the reopening of schools, and more. We strongly encourage all members to carefully review the entire document. HSTA was consulted as the department finalized this information. While the document is comprehensive, there are a few clarifications and topics of greatest interest to our members. Here are some frequently asked questions you should be aware of.

On April 15, the department issued a revised guidance document, removing the information listed under "Reopening of Schools After a Prolonged Closure." We have kept the original version above, but replaced the links and noted the change below to reflect the new version of this document.

What happens to fourth-quarter grades?

Fourth-quarter grades will not be entered. All grades for SY 2019–20 will be based on the first three quarters. — April 13, 2020

Do teachers grade or include formative assessment grades during the school closure?

“During the closure, teachers will focus on teaching and learning, to maintain and enrich without evaluation. While teachers could introduce new or continue the scope and sequence, students cannot be penalized or graded” (p. 25). — April 13, 2020

What about students who are not yet proficient and/or failing a course?

The definition for a student meeting proficiency is found on page 24 of the guidelines: “For students in a credit bearing course, proficiency is the awarding of a grade D and higher. For Elementary students, it would be approaching proficiency and above.”

Additional guidance can be found in our letter of agreement. While no student may have their grades for SY 2019–20 reduced or penalized, teachers should be “assessing students’ essential educational needs… and determine if learning and enrichment” opportunities could be provided to assist a student in reaching proficiency in a course or grade level.

In this process, teachers continue to maintain their ability “to use their professional training and judgement to determine the scope and method to be utilized in providing the appropriate learning and enrichment activities.” This also means that teachers may determine additional adjustments are needed for students’ grades up to May 28, 2020, which is the last day of the school year.

Teachers should also work with their school administration and counselors to determine if there are other more appropriate opportunities, especially for students who are far behind. Options for students vary depending on the grade level, but might include credit recovery coursework, e-school, or summer school classes. — April 13, 2020

When will the HIDOE announce a school closure for the remainder of the 2019–20 school year?

On April 17, the HIDOE announced that schools will remain closed through the rest of the school year, with the continuation of enrichment and distance learning through May 28, the last day of the 2019–20 school year. The DOE said the decision was made based on the latest guidance and information from health officials and elected leaders. As for how schools will reopen, the HIDOE's original guidance document outlined an internal plan with factors such as “no new cases for 4 weeks (2 incubation periods of the virus) on the island,” however the department removed this information in a new version issued April 15. — April 16, 2020

When will the HIDOE announce if high school commencement ceremonies will be canceled or delayed?

On April 15, the HIDOE announced the following: “Traditional commencement ceremonies at public and charter schools will be replaced with alternative celebrations for the class of 2020 due to safety concerns and social distancing guidance. Schools will honor their seniors through different models of celebrations, which will be announced next week.” — April 15, 2020

What about my EES (Educator Effectiveness System) rating for SY2019–20?

The signed agreement between HSTA and the Superintendent addresses this question in item II, K. Teachers should be provided the opportunity to complete and be rated, but if they are unable to complete their EES requirements due to school closures, they shall be held harmless.

Teachers should know that “held harmless” does not mean every teacher will automatically be issued an effective rating. It does mean we need to work out ways to allow teachers to get their rating in a fair and appropriate manner with safeguards for those who are unable to complete. HSTA has proposed a framework to the HIDOE to address issuing EES ratings for SY 2019–20 during school closures and we are awaiting response. Once details are finalized, they will be shared with membership. — April 13, 2020

What happens to my 21 hours now that schools are closed?

The agreement between HSTA and the Superintendent addresses this question in item II, J: “A teacher shall be held harmless should the school closures impact the ability of a teacher to complete their 21-hours of job-embedded professional development. This includes receiving both the compensation for salary and three (3) professional development credit hours.”

Teachers still need to complete their hours for school year 2019–20. Principals should be communicating with teachers on how they can complete any remaining hours while working remotely. In addition, HSTA requested that the HIDOE encourage flexibility in allowing teachers to complete the hours. The HIDOE is encouraging principals to provide flexibility in allowing teachers to complete the PD through various online opportunities, especially those related to distance learning.

As usual, the Office of Talent Management (OTM) will send a spreadsheet to each principal at the end of the year for the principals to verify completion of hours and facilitate the issuing of PD credits.

The only situation in which teachers get “automatic credit” without completing would be if the administration has failed to schedule and/or provide makeup opportunities to complete the 21 hours for a teacher. — April 24, 2020

When are report cards due?

The Hawaii State Teachers Association reached an agreement with Hawaii State Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto on March 25 to modify the due date for teachers to submit third-quarter grades.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 response, students will not return to school until sometime after April 30. Our contract requires that students’ grades will not be submitted until the fourth day after students return to school (Article VI, R. Evaluation of Students/Grading Preparation, pg. 20). However, extended closures would cause an excessive delay in finalizing and informing students and families of third-quarter report card grades.

We have agreed to a modification of our contract to Article VI, R. Evaluation of students/Grading Preparation for the third-quarter grade submission as follows: The deadline for the submittal of grades, for third (3rd) quarter of school year 2019-2020, shall be no earlier than the end of the workday on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

To clarify, "no earlier" means grades can be due by the end of workday on April 1 at the earliest. This specific time represents the starting point for when the deadline can be set. 

In a department-issued memo sent March 26, a day after our original post, the employer determined that the due date will be the end of workday on April 1, which is what our modification allows. It is HSTA's understanding that all schools are expected to follow the April 1 due date in the HIDOE’s memo.

Some teachers have inquired about the option to have more time to input grades beyond April 1, as they have traditionally had more time in the past. We have discussed with the HIDOE and were told that extensions can be provided and this has been communicated to the administrators. If the teachers on your campus traditionally have been given more time and/or need more time, please talk to your principal.

The HIDOE issued another memo dated March 27 stating that third-quarter grades and IEP progress reports will be due by the end of the working day for teachers on Monday, April 6, 2020 for the following multi-track schools: Holomua Elementary, Mililani Middle School, and Kapolei Middle School.

It is our understanding that Bargaining Unit 05 employees, including registrars, counselors, and classroom teachers, will NOT be required to physically go to their campus to submit grades or work on report cards. If you have specific questions on how to submit grades remotely, please contact your principal.

We know that teachers may want to provide extended time for students to finish work from the third quarter including quizzes or tests that haven’t been taken. For many of our seniors, finalized third-quarter grades are important for college or university admission. We encourage teachers to provide students opportunities within the next month to demonstrate proficiency in the standards previously taught and to update submitted grades, if necessary, at a later time.

We are working with the department to answer and clarify additional questions, including what to do about end-of-year grading, and will provide further information as it becomes available. — March 29, 2020

What's being done about graduation requirements for seniors?

On Thursday, April 2, the Hawaii State Board of Education unanimously approved a request to waive credit requirements pursuant to BOE Policy 102-15 High School Graduation Requirements and Commencement for the current school year.

The decision means that about 10,000 public high school seniors who are on track to graduate will be able to do so on time. Another 1,000 or so students are not on track to graduate, and the superintendent says guidance, which has yet to be released, will include ways for educators to work with students to ensure they can graduate, if possible.

We are following up with the department to get greater clarification on plans to support students, especially those who are not yet meeting proficiency for graduation, and the expectations of teachers related to those students. HSTA supports efforts to ensure our graduating seniors and high school students are not negatively impacted by the effect of the long-term COVID-19 school closures. — April 3, 2020

What about students who rely on the school breakfast and lunch program?

The HIDOE has implemented a grab-and-go program. Dozens of Hawaii public schools across the state are providing breakfast and lunch to children who are 18 years or younger. Click here for more information. — March 24, 2020

What about school field trips? Are we supposed to cancel?

HSTA is asking the HIDOE. To date, we have not seen specific guidance in this area. — March 24, 2020

What happens if I belong to a high-risk group (e.g., compromised immune systems, 60+ years of age)? I am concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19 on my school campus. Will I be placed on paid administrative leave?

Our current understanding is that only those who are actively being monitored by the DOH because of possible COVID-19 exposure would qualify for paid administrative leave. See this memo for more information. We have asked the HIDOE for additional guidance regarding these types of employees and are awaiting response. First and foremost, you should consult with your doctor and provide information about your current work assignment, as every teacher has different circumstances. Please follow your doctor’s advice. — March 24, 2020

What process do I follow if I need to take leave during school closures? Do I call TSEAS and report the absence? Do I request a substitute?

Teachers should report absences through the normal process, including reporting on TSEAS and alerting your administration per school procedures. Per HSTA’s discussion with the HIDOE, substitute teachers are currently not required unless the principal requests for certain substitute teachers to cover for situations such as longer-term absences. In those cases, the substitutes would be expected to assist with lesson planning during the absence. If teachers have questions about requesting a substitute for a longer absence, please discuss with your principal. — April 15, 2020

Will being placed “off-track” the weeks of March 16-27 affect our pay and compensation?

No, we do not expect you to have any impact in your pay. — March 24, 2020

What about students with special needs?

The superintendent announced that the schools would be closed from March 30 through at least April 30. During this time, “traditional, in-school instruction is on hold” and students will be provided “remote enrichment opportunities to ensure continuity of learning.”

For weeks, members and HSTA leaders have been asking the HIDOE for clarification regarding special education services during coronavirus-related closures. The department finally released guidance on March 27 in a memo about programming and timelines for students with special needs during school closures. In regards to IEP deadlines and meetings, the HIDOE says teachers should make a “good faith effort to meet timeline requirements” and attempt to hold virtual meetings if possible. It is also our understanding that teachers should provide enrichment activities to students with special needs and make accommodations where possible. The memo also contains specific guidance related to virtual IEP meetings and timelines. This follows the latest U.S. Department of Education guidance issued on March 21.

The memo also links to a series of resources for teachers. Please note, this site is not open to the public and employees must be logged in with their work Google accounts to access it.

The HIDOE also released a memo related to student support/related services personnel such as therapists, educational assistants, and others. This memo applies to other bargaining unit employees who work with students. Teachers may find the memo informational as they interact with these individuals in their day-to-day work.

The department also released a flyer for parents of students with disabilities which said, "To ensure the health and safety of all, direct in-person services will not be provided to students at any location. Related services may be provided via telepractice when it is appropriate to do so.” — March 29, 2020

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