Friday, July 10, 2020
The Hawaii State Teachers Association is working hard to ensure that our members' health and safety remain a priority, our contract and employment rights are preserved, and information is being communicated in an accurate and timely manner.
We have also seen an escalation in rumors circulating about coronavirus (COVID-19) and its possible impact on Hawaii’s schools, teachers, students, and families. We are actively discussing our members' most important concerns with the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) and offer this post to answer frequently asked questions.
Please note that with the situation evolving at such a rapid pace, the information we provide is subject to change. Each answer will be dated so readers know when that information was provided. Questions that no longer apply have been archived here.
Click for questions:
Please note that some topics are listed on this page while others are linked to separate, dedicated posts.
Click here to view the National Education Association’s collection of frequently asked questions on educator rights and benefits amid schools closings.
Return to our main COVID-19 web page
Yes. Unless expressly cited in the MOU, all provisions of the contract apply. This includes, among other things, a scheduled seven (7) hour work day, with no work day ending after 4:30 p.m., a break of 15 minutes after 180 minutes of consecutive instruction, a duty-free lunch of a minimum of 30 minutes, and 225 minutes of teacher initiated preparation time a week. — July 6, 2020
No, 21 hours will still be utilized in SY 2020–21, and teachers will still earn 3 PD credits and the additional pay for the hours worked. Click here for more information on how 21 hours work and how they should be differentiated. Note: You must be logged on with your registered account to view this information. Learn how to create a website account here.
Teachers last rated highly effective also have the option to apply for flexible use of their 21 hours. Click here for more information. — July 6, 2020
Under state law Hawaii Revised Statutes §302D-17(e), the State Public Charter School Commission has the authority to direct governing boards and charter schools to take appropriate action to address serious health and safety issues. On March 4, the commission accepted Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s offer to coordinate and direct all of our 37 public charter schools for the purposes of responding to threats posed by a potential COVID-19 outbreak. We understand this means that public charter schools may not take actions such as closure without the superintendent’s approval. In addition, public charter schools are expected and required to follow all HIDOE procedures related to COVID-19 response. This would include all the memos posted on the HIDOE website. On Thursday, June 18, the Board of Education passed this resolution regarding reopening of schools. The resolution provides directives and guidance to the superintendent regarding all public schools. Among other things, it indicates that “the Board encourages each charter school to use the Superintendent’s comprehensive guidance as it sees fit and to provide its students, families, and school personnel with clear guidance on the steps the charter school is taking to ensure their health and safety.” In addition, the state of Hawaii and HSTA reached agreement on a memorandum of understanding related to school year 2020–21 and COVID-19. Charter schools must follow this supplemental. Charter teachers should contact their HSTA UniServ Director if they have more questions. — July 2, 2020
This ensured that there was no impact to multi-track, year-round school teachers’ paycheck cycles. If you did not report until July 29 with other 10-month teachers, you would not be paid on July 20 and Aug. 5, as those are normally the first two paychecks of your school year and you would not have worked. — June 30, 2020
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
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Questions relating to HIDOE guidance
During the coronavirus pandemic, the HSTA and the superintendent reached two different agreements related to school closures. In addition, the HSTA and State of Hawaii and Board of Education reached agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding as a supplemental agreement to the current contract. All agreements and additional formal correspondence are linked below. — July 2, 2020
Questions relating to health and safety
Originally, the HIDOE issued guidance on April 7 that indicated they would plan to reopen schools based on the following:
However, on April 17, the HIDOE removed that section and issued an amended guidance document. The latest version we are aware of is dated April 30. On page 22, you will see that section remains blank. — July 6, 2020
HSTA has repeatedly asked the HIDOE to consider options for telework for teachers who are delivering distance learning. It is our understanding that the HIDOE will not allow telework by teachers. It is expected that they all report to campus or worksite regardless of the type or delivery of instruction. — July 6, 2020
It is HSTA’s understanding, per discussion with the HIDOE, that teachers will be allowed to control this requirement as part of their classroom rules. We strongly encourage teachers to have students wear face coverings, especially when they are within six feet of each other. Teachers should know that individuals may get exemptions from wearing face coverings for situations such as age (too young) or medical conditions. We are asking the HIDOE for more details on the process that should be followed for exemption. — July 6, 2020
Members should refer to the recently agreed Memorandum of Understanding between HSTA and the state of Hawaii. In addition, late Wednesday, July 1, the HIDOE released what it is calling the Ready to Learn reopening plan. HSTA is carefully reviewing the documents and will add more updates as they become available. — July 2, 2020
No. Even if all employees were tested, that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of them contracting COVID-19 shortly after a negative test. — July 2, 2020
While we all have a responsibility to ensure that we engage in best health and safety practices, our HSTA contract (Article VI, U, pg 20) requires that the employer ensure the “maintenance and cleanliness of the campus, classrooms and offices.” — June 30, 2020
At this time, the HIDOE and public charter schools are following guidance from the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH). There is currently a mandatory 14-day quarantine in place for all travelers entering the state of Hawaii. The HIDOE also recently put out an updated travel policy which can be found here. The DOH also has current travel advisories listed on its website. — July 2, 2020
The principal or designee, which on most campuses will be the school health aide. However, teachers should be alert for symptoms in children and send them to the health room for evaluation as appropriate. — July 2, 2020
Our contractual agreement requires medical clearance before return. In such cases, the DOH will conduct an investigation and those individuals involved will be directed to a 14-day quarantine or isolation. The DOH will work with the school principal to identify other affected individuals from the campus, and those individuals will receive a letter from the DOH. It is the responsibility of all employees to notify their supervisor if they test positive or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. When there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 on a campus, the protocols will intensify and decisions related to closing of facilities will be made. — July 2, 2020
We know of no plans to require schools to turn off air conditioning systems. Schools are encouraged to bring fresh air into the building spaces as much as possible, and also make sure existing systems are operating properly and circulating in outside air as much as possible. — July 2, 2020
A teacher’s primary duty and responsibility is to teach. HSTA would generally consider teachers conducting temperature checks to not fall within the normal responsibility of a teacher. This type of activity would be a non-professional duty, and it was not something we agreed to in bargaining. However, HSTA knows of no specific plans for public schools to screen everyone’s temperature as a health check. — July 2, 2020
Yes, it should be provided. — July 2, 2020
HSTA strongly believes and supports everyone wearing face coverings on campus and at worksites, especially within six feet of each other, as this practice has shown to significantly reduce the possibility of the spread of COVID-19. All individuals on campus should wear a mask, but there are situations where exceptions may be made, such as age, medical reasons, or other considerations. In addition, we don't expect that teachers will be required to wear masks when they are in their classroom alone or sufficiently distanced from others. — July 2, 2020
No, but the recent contractual agreement requires the employer to provide a supply of masks for teachers to give to students should they not have one available. — July 2, 2020
Questions relating to leave
Click here to view the NEA’s frequently asked questions on paid leave and unemployment rights.
Teachers* have a variety of options for leave depending on the duration and reason for the leave. Whether a teacher is paid or not is directly related to a teacher’s paid sick leave or vacation (12-month teachers only) leave bank. The following options for leave may be utilized.
Medical/health plans will continue while you are on a leave status regardless of paid or unpaid, but if you are on an unpaid leave, you are still responsible for your share of the health care premium.
Tenured teachers can take up to one year off with return rights to a position on their campus for which they are qualified. They can, in some cases, renew that leave for an additional year with rights back to their district.
*Non-tenured teachers have fewer rights related to taking long-term leave and/or return rights to a position. Generally, any rights are able to be utilized only within the current duration (one year) of your tentative teaching agreement (contract). — July 10, 2020
No, it should not affect your health benefits. As long as you are on paid leave, you will earn service credit.
The HIDOE pushed out a memo on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Leave and the accompanying leave form. This leave is specific to employees affected by COVID-19. The funding for this leave is provided via federal government stimulus and is not taken from an employee’s existing leave. Teachers are encouraged to review the options for leave and apply if appropriate. For Bargaining Unit 05 members, the 80 hours related to sick leave will be treated as 10 working days or two weeks paid leave. There is also an expanded family leave benefit. Please review the memo for full details. — April 13, 2020
Per the U.S. Department of Labor: “In general, no, unless you were able to return to light duty before taking leave. If you receive workers’ compensation because you are unable to work, you may not take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, if you were able to return to light duty and a qualifying reason prevents you from working, you may take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, as the situation warrants” (question 76). — April 13, 2020
At this time, we know of no plans to approve Bargaining Unit 05 telework from home for purposes of child care. Those who need to take leave for care of their child have the following options. For paid leave, they may take personal leave (paid charged to sick) for up to six (6) days. Teachers may also take leave without pay for up to a year for child care. For more information about the above leave options, visit our members-only Know Your Rights page. You must be a registered user and logged in to view this page.
In addition to the above, the HIDOE provided the following information:
A teacher who is unable to report to work due to caring for their child, with no alternative child care, may qualify for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) leave. Teachers may be approved to use Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) for the first 10 days intermittently within two consecutive weeks, but this can only be taken in full-day increments (there is no partial-day leave) at 2/3 pay. Employees may supplement 1/3 of their own paid sick leave for the remaining 1/3 pay.
After the initial two consecutive weeks of EPSLA, employees may take an additional 10 weeks of Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) intermittently in full-day increments at 2/3 pay and supplement with 1/3 of their own paid sick leave. However, the 10 weeks of EFMLEA leave will count against your annual right to use 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) per year.
Please refer to the HIDOE’s memo related to FFCRA leave, and download the FFCRA COVID-19 emergency paid leave form. Teachers should be aware that all FFCRA leave all expires at the end of 2020. — July 2, 2020
Questions relating to the Student Educational Program
HSTA has not seen a specific definition put out by the HIDOE. We do understand that any citation of synchronous and asynchronous are in relation to distance learning for school year 2020–21. While we have not seen a specific definition, we can provide the following general definitions.
Synchronous learning happens in real time. This means that students and teachers interact in a specific virtual place, through a specific online medium, at a specific time. Methods of synchronous online learning include video conferencing, teleconferencing, live chatting, and live-streaming lectures.
Asynchronous learning generally happens on the student’s schedule, not in real time. The teacher provides materials for reading, lectures for viewing, assignments for completing, and tests for evaluation. The student has the ability to access and satisfy these requirements within a flexible time frame. Methods of asynchronous online learning include self-guided lesson modules, streaming video content, virtual libraries, posted lecture notes, and exchanges across discussion boards or other digital platforms. — July 6, 2020
Distance learning is a broad catchall phrase referring to when students are not reporting in-person on campus and will be learning from a remote location (i.e. home). Distance learning may be asynchronous or synchronous. Telework has nothing to do with students. It is a term referring to employees who work from a remote location. While in theory a teacher could provide distance learning via telework, it is far more likely that a teacher will be reporting to campus and teaching in-person from their classroom and providing students distance learning assignments to take home. — July 6, 2020
There are a variety of ways that the blended learning programs could work, and we anticipate that each school, grade level, department and/or teacher will figure out what works best for them. A simple explanation for a blended rotation is where students report on campus for in-person instruction for two days, and are then sent home with instructions for distance learning. The distance learning assignment could be reading, projects, writing assignments, videos, or other asynchronous learning activities. It could also be that some teachers want to try and have synchronous learning occur, where students at home log in and participate with those in class. For example, the whole class could be in a Webex room to hear a lecture, and/or we know some teachers are exploring options to live stream their lesson. One thing we know for sure is that any efforts that require a lot of specialized equipment or large amounts of bandwidth will likely be difficult to accomplish on most of our campuses. — July 6, 2020
Students with special needs are being given priority for in-person learning opportunities when schools reopen. In addition, schools will have to conduct Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings to determine each student's need to compensate for loss of skills that resulted from the closure of our school facilities. Teachers who are care coordinators should be provided at least three (3) hours of time in first quarter to address any compensatory services needed. Visit the HIDOE’s page for more information regarding students with special needs. — July 2, 2020
ESY is not work that falls within our bargaining unit and it is considered hourly or casual employment. Teachers should discuss with their supervisor if they have concerns working ESY. — March 24, 2020
There are no specific class size limits related to COVID-19 and the reopening of school year 2020-21. Contract provisions related to class size (Article VI, A.) are still in effect. — July 2, 2020
According to our agreement with the state of Hawaii, schools "shall work to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread... by maintaining six (6) feet or two arms' length (whichever is longer) of separation between and among students and staff members... whenever possible.” HSTA is aware that despite the agreement, on July 2, the HIDOE put out health and safety guidance that conflicts with the contract language.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that schools “space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible” to reduce risk. The CDC characterizes students who are “not spaced apart” as being at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19.
It is HSTA’s position that classrooms should be configured in line with six feet of physical distancing and the only time that there should regular contact of less than three feet would be in classrooms where students must be closely attended to, such as medically fragile classrooms.
If your school is planning their opening with desks configured at less than six feet, please have your HSTA school level leaders contact your UniServ Director so we can follow up and address this. — July 2, 2020
Questions relating to furloughs and pay cuts
Up until recently, we had no indication that furloughs or pay cuts were planned. At a news conference on March 15, Gov. David Ige said he was “absolutely not” considering state employee furloughs. However, HSTA was informed by the governor’s administration on April 14 that he is looking at 20-percent cuts in wages for most state employees and 10-percent cuts from first responders. We are actively working to get more details and will inform you of the latest developments as soon as we can. — April 15, 2020
HSTA was told that the governor wants to implement cuts for public employees, including educators and first responders. These cuts could occur as early as May 1. We were not given any formal proposal, and it is unclear if the governor intends to implement these cuts as furloughs or across-the-board salary decreases. However, on April 15, the governor in a press conference stated that while initial conversations have taken place, “no decisions have been made yet. These discussions are ongoing and we will keep you informed and updated on what this means for you in the days to come.” Then during a press conference on April 17, the governor said, “We are looking at all options. It is possible that there would be no salary cuts at all, if there is access to federal funds that would allow to not have salary cuts.” — April 17, 2020
Our current contract, which sets our rate of salary, does not expire until June 30, 2021. Any change in that salary requires negotiations. However, it would seem that the governor may be threatening to implement these cuts without negotiation through his emergency proclamation. "Within that emergency powers, I do have authority to enact many different actions in order to continue the operations of the state in a meaningful way," Ige said in a news conference on April 15. — April 15, 2020
HSTA and other public sector unions have made it clear to the governor that these cuts will exacerbate our weakening economy, hurt government employees, and potentially prolong this crisis. We stand united and will not accept the governor’s plan without exploring every last alternative to keep these harmful cuts from happening. An important next step is to continue to advocate for more funding from the federal government. We are asking members and supporters to reach out to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. — April 15, 2020
We believe there are other options. Hawaii has access to additional resources. At the close of last fiscal year, Hawaii had a cash surplus and rainy day fund totaling more than $1 billion. Congress recently appropriated $863 million to our state government with hundreds of millions more for our counties as part of a $2 trillion stimulus package—and lawmakers are discussing additional stimulus funding.
State lawmakers also oppose salary cuts. Senate President Ron Kouchi (D, Kauai, Niihau) and House Speaker Scott Saiki (D, McCully, Kakaako, Downtown) issued the following statement:
“Although Governor Ige has the unilateral authority to impose furloughs and salary cuts, we do not agree with such action. We urge the Governor to obtain better data and analysis before he makes this decision. We also urge him to act on all alternatives, just as the National Governors Association did when it called on Congress four days ago to provide an additional $500 billion to the 50 states to stabilize state budgets due to tax revenue shortfalls.
Although we disagree with Governor Ige's proposal, the Legislature will work with him to assess and pursue all options.”
Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) issued the following statement:
Pay cuts by the Governor is a bad idea and contrary to the spirit of the Payroll Protection Act to keep our employees whole.
During family or corporate emergencies, borrowing money is the way to go. Hawaii has millions in special funds squirreled away in the Executive Branch—we could borrow from them in the next few months.
Pay cuts to teachers and first responders, including our healthcare workers, is cruel and unusual punishment. If Gov inflicts this on the people of Hawaii, they should be exempt and without furloughs. — April 15, 2020
Cutting salaries does not end the economic crisis, and can exacerbate the downturn of Hawaii’s economy. This is why the federal government passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill and are considering further stimulus bills. NEA and HSTA are advocating on a state and federal level to support families in need and others that are suffering because of this crisis. — April 15, 2020
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