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HSTA and HIDOE reach agreement on distancing of students in classrooms

6 feet will be the rule with HSTA approving any exceptions

We are pleased to report that the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) and Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto have reached a resolution on distancing of students in classrooms and face-covering requirements.

The HSTA bargaining team and Hawaii State Department of Education leadership met for several hours Friday and through the weekend. Mahalo to thousands of our members who submitted testimony to the Board of Education last week. We would not have been able to continue this conversation without you.

Today, we finalized an agreement on a procedure to address any school which seeks to configure meetings spaces between three and six feet.

This agreement is in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) SY 2020–21 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response that HSTA and the state signed two weeks ago.

The resolution finalized today includes the following:

  • All meeting spaces, including classrooms, where students, staff, and/or other individuals gather will be configured to allow a physical distance of at least six (6) feet of separation.
  • If a school seeks to configure meeting spaces at less than six (6) feet of physical distance, they must receive approval via submission of a contract exception no later than Tuesday, July 21.
  • Requests for contract exceptions will be reviewed and approved by a joint committee made up of two (2) representatives appointed by the HSTA and two (2) appointed by the HIDOE. Both sides of the committee must approve any exception.

While there are no specific criteria for an exception, HSTA will look very closely at any school’s request. We will review the rationale for the submission, the involvement and support of the teachers on that campus, and all of the health and safety factors that would help to mitigate risk to adults and children by configuring classrooms at a distance of less than six feet.

View the new agreement

Download the COVID-19 Response Exceptions Request form

What does this mean?

Spaces where students, staff and/or other individuals meet need to be configured to “minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread.” While the MOU we reached a two weeks ago doesn’t expressly prohibit configuring student desks at less than six feet, distancing of three to six feet should not be the norm or a starting point. Desks placed less than six feet apart should be the exception to the rule, and there should be clear and specific reasons that would justify an exception and how the added risk is mitigated by other actions such as mandatory face coverings.

This may or may not require a change in the instructional model a school is implementing. If a change in instructional model is needed, then the school will need to utilize the instructional model decision process in the MOU to adjust their model.

Our agreement also covers the following:

The HIDOE also agreed to revise and update its health and safety guidance to reflect the requirement of maintaining a distance of at least six (6) feet, and that any configuration at a distance of between three (3) and six (6) feet may only occur with an approved contract exception and additional precautions.

The parties also agreed on the importance of clarifying that teachers will need to determine the routines and rules in their classrooms when it comes to wearing face coverings. Therefore, the parties agreed that classroom teachers will make decisions for their students and their classroom based on their instructional methods and various curriculum delivery all in line with the HSTA MOU SY 2020–21 COVID-19 Response.

Finally, in line with the MOU, the parties have agreed that we will continue to meet in the immediate future on a weekly basis to address many ongoing issues related to the reopening of school buildings.

HSTA remains committed to working toward the safest possible environment for our members, students, and all school staff. While we recognize the importance of mitigating further disruption of students’ education, we remain keenly aware of the need to ensure that health and safety are at the top of the list.

If you have any questions or concerns, or believe that your school is not following our agreement or MOU, please reach out to your school-level leaders, UniServ Director, or let us know via this online form.

Contact HSTA

HSTA’s Negotiations Team:

Paul Daugherty, Chair (Kona); Diane Mokuau, Vice Chair (Molokai); Shannon Kaaa (Honolulu); Lisa Morrison (Maui); Corey Rosenlee, President; Osa Tui, Vice President; Logan Okita, Secretary-Treasurer; Andrea Eshelman, HSTA Deputy Executive Director and Chief Negotiator.

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