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BOE chair recommends suspending in-person learning until directives met

She also proposes teacher telework approvals during distance learning

The Board of Education will hold a special meeting next week during which it will vote on a proposal to temporarily suspend changes to in-person or hybrid learning at schools, set up clearer reopening guidelines, and consider a measure making it easier for public school teachers to be granted telework options during the pandemic.

The meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m., according to the agenda published Friday afternoon.

In an action item about school reopening, BOE Chair Catherine Payne noted: 

“The Department of Education has not yet adopted or incorporated Guidance for Schools COVID-19 into the Return to Learn: School Reopening Plan, the Return to Learn: School Reopening Plan Principal Handbook, or the Return to Learn: School Reopening Plan Health & Safety Handbook.

I recommend that the Board direct the Superintendent to incorporate into the applicable guidance documents: (1) minimum thresholds and criteria for transitioning schools to hybrid or in-person learning, (2) clear decision-making responsibilities for such transitions, and (3) reasonable notification to families and staff of impending transitions.

I also recommend that the Board suspend changes to instructional delivery modes (i.e., distance, hybrid, and in-person learning) for all schools until the Superintendent incorporates the directives stated herein into the applicable guidance documents.”

The BOE reopening action item recommended “using the Learning Model Parameters as minimum thresholds for when certain instructional delivery modes are allowable. This means that the cases per 10,000 people metric is one indicator of when it might be possible for schools to transition to hybrid or in-person learning. However, my proposal requires schools to meet other criteria before they may proceed with transitioning to hybrid or in-person learning.”

Payne’s proposal further said, “It is incumbent upon the Board and Superintendent to make it explicitly clear which mitigation strategies are minimum requirements that a school must be able to implement before it can offer hybrid or in-person learning. To be clear, schools should be implementing all required mitigation strategies regardless of instructional delivery mode, but the degree and complexity of implementation changes as schools progress toward more in-person learning.”


TUNE IN: HSTA will live stream the BOE meeting on Thursday, Oct. 1, at 1:30 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube.


Many mitigation strategies exist across at least five documents, the BOE proposal said, “and it is not always clear which strategies are required.”

“Principals seeking approval to transition their respective schools from distance learning to hybrid or in-person learning or from hybrid learning to in-person learning must demonstrate that the school can adequately implement all COVID-19 mitigation strategies required by the Board, DOE, and applicable collective bargaining agreements with the anticipated number of students and staff that will be on campus in the new instructional delivery mode,” the BOE proposal said.

The measure also sharpens the lines of authority, which have been a problem without clear direction from the top during the coronavirus.

“Principals must obtain approval from their respective Complex Area Superintendent (“CAS”) before transitioning their respective schools from distance learning to hybrid or in-person learning or from hybrid learning to in-person learning.” Payne’s proposal said.

Payne’s measure proposes to adopt the following positions as Board directives and directs Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to incorporate them into the HIDOE’s Reopening Plan, Principal Handbook, and Health and Safety Handbook (as applicable) for the 2020-2021 school year:

  1. The Learning Model Parameters in the DOH Guidance and impact levels from the Governor’s Recovery Plan are minimum thresholds (but not the only criteria) that allow schools to start considering transitioning from distance learning to hybrid or in-person learning or from hybrid learning to in-person learning; 
  2. The Learning Model Parameters in the DOH Guidance and impact levels from the Governor’s Recovery Plan do not apply to decisions regarding transitions 15 from in-person learning to hybrid or distance learning or from hybrid learning to distance learning; 
  3. Regardless of instructional delivery mode, all schools must: 
    1. Successfully implement and consistently enforce at least six feet of physical distance between all individuals on campus at all times; 
    2. Consistently enforce mandatory, proper mask wearing for all individuals on campus; and 
    3. Implement proper ventilation strategies as outlined in the DOH Guidance (page 10) for any indoor area on a campus that will be occupied by more than one person; 
  4. Principals must obtain approval from their respective CAS before transitioning their respective schools from distance learning to hybrid or in-person learning or from hybrid learning to in-person learning; 
  5. Principals seeking approval to transition their respective schools from distance learning to hybrid or in-person learning or from hybrid learning to in-person learning must demonstrate that the school can adequately implement all COVID-19 mitigation strategies required by the Board, DOE, and applicable collective bargaining agreements with the anticipated number of students and staff that will be on campus in the new instructional delivery mode; 
  6. Principals may transition their respective schools from in-person learning to hybrid or distance learning or from hybrid learning to distance learning by notifying their respective CAS and without approval; 
  7. Schools transitioning from one instructional delivery mode to another must provide families and school staff with at least one-week notice before implementing the transition unless the transition is in direct response to confirmed or potentially imminent COVID-19 spread in the school or surrounding community; 
  8. To reduce undue hardship on families and school staff, schools should not change instructional delivery modes more than once within a four-week period unless the change is in direct response to confirmed or potentially imminent COVID-19 spread in the school or surrounding community; 
  9. CASs are responsible for verifying the readiness of schools to provide safe learning environments and may approve schools’ requests to transition from distance learning to hybrid or in-person learning or from hybrid learning to in-person learning only if the school: 
    1. Is requesting an instructional delivery mode that aligns with the Learning Model Parameters in the DOH Guidance; 
    2. Is located in a county with an impact level of “Act with Care,” “Recovery,” or “New Normal” as categorized by the Governor’s Recovery Plan; 
    3. Provides sufficient evidence that it can adequately implement all COVID-19 mitigation strategies required by the Board, DOE, and applicable collective bargaining agreements with the anticipated number of students and staff that will be on campus in the new instructional delivery mode; and
    4. Has not changed its instructional delivery mode in the last four weeks; 
  10. The Superintendent must order schools to quickly transition to distance learning if the impact level of the county in which they are located changes to “Safer at Home” or “Stay at Home” as categorized by the Governor’s Recovery Plan; 
  11. The Superintendent may adopt or incorporate any other parts of the DOH Guidance into the Reopening Plan, Principal Handbook, or Health and Safety Handbook as deemed necessary, provided that doing so does not conflict with the Board’s directives stated herein; 
  12. No school may change its instructional delivery mode to hybrid or in-person learning until the Superintendent incorporates the Board’s directives stated herein into the Reopening Plan, Principal Handbook, or Health and Safety Handbook; and 
  13. The Superintendent must request a rationale from the DOH on how it determined its Learning Model Parameters, including any scientific data on which it is based and an explanation of how it aligns with CDC’s “Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making,” and the Superintendent must include this rationale in the Reopening Plan for the purposes of transparency and addressing public concerns.”

BOE proposes clearer, simpler telework requirements

A second BOE action item on telework noted, “Overall, it does not appear that the Department has been implementing telework in alignment with the Board’s June 18, 2020 Reopening Resolution,” so Payne proposed the board direct the superintendent to adopt the following telework directives for educators:

  1. In accordance with lines 240-243 and 268-273 of the Reopening Resolution, the Department should ensure there is a comprehensive and thoughtful system of support for teachers, particularly during distance or hybrid learning modes.
  2. Administrators will approve teachers that request telework during distance or hybrid learning modes if the following criteria is met: 
    1. The teacher has a location at home where the teacher can work or conduct instruction online with minimal disruptions during school hours. 
    2. The teacher has reliable internet connectivity that is adequate for the instruction being provided and to engage with their administrator and others. 
    3. The teacher provides a written commitment that their administrator will be able to: (1) monitor the teacher’s instruction and/or instructional material provided to students and (2) will be able to easily make contact with, communicate with, and get timely responses from the teacher.
  3. The Department can subsequently terminate a telework agreement if any of the telework approval criteria are not met consistently during the term of the agreement or if the administrator determines that the teacher’s instruction or instructional material is not effective based on the administrator’s monitoring and that the teacher’s instruction or instructional material does not improve after the administrator provides guidance and training opportunities.

Please submit written testimony in favor of these proposals

The HSTA applauds the BOE chair's action items and supports efforts to further support telework in addition to clear health and safety measures. 

"HSTA thanks the BOE and Chair Payne for holding a special meeting to discuss telework and the needed requirements before schools can reopen for hybrid or in-person learning,” said HSTA Corey Rosenlee.

We say mahalo to the thousands of HSTA members, other school employees, parents, students, and others who’ve submitted written testimony and testified virtually before the board in the last several months. The proposals being considered by the BOE specifically cite testimony from our members as part of their rationale.

"We are asking members to send in written testimony, but to refrain from oral testimony so that the BOE will have time to discuss and pass these action items. We appreciate all the testimony from all of our members that have highlighted these issues and have advocated for the BOE to take action. It shows the power of our collective action," Rosenlee said.

If you feel comfortable sharing your name, school, and testimony publicly, please email testimony.BOE@boe.hawaii.gov by noon on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Include the word “Testimony” in the subject line and at the top of the email, explain that you are testifying on action item B or C:

  1. Board Action on directives regarding telework availability for teachers:  Board intent, telework approval criteria, and telework termination restrictions
  2. Board Action on directives regarding Department of Education's use of Department of Health's Guidance for Schools COVID-19 (revised as of September 16, 2020), including applicability of Reopening Thresholds and Learning Model Parameters, criteria for transitioning between instructional delivery modes, decisions and notice of transitions, and suspension of transitions to hybrid and in-person learning 

Please be aware that all testimony submitted to the BOE becomes public record and is posted on the board’s website.

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