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HSTA has serious concerns about HIDOE’s three-phase reopening plan

HSTA was not consulted nor notified prior to Friday’s announcement

The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) has serious concerns about the three-phase reopening plan unveiled Friday by Gov. David Ige and Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

When asked if the three public worker unions (HSTA, Hawaii Government Employees Association, and United Public Workers) were notified of these new changes, the superintendent said she had teams working with the unions.

However HSTA was not consulted nor notified prior to Friday’s announcement, and learned of the developments alongside the public. HSTA has subsequently demanded impact bargaining with the employer as the changes would have ramifications on numerous parts of our current contract.

HSTA has concerns about the HIDOE’s plan to allow students to gather at schools “to connect with their teacher, receive training on the distance learning platforms, and address issues with connectivity and access to technology” until details of the plan have been properly negotiated.

HSTA disagrees with the decision to delay a move to 100-percent distance learning for neighbor-island public schools. While case counts may be lower on the neighbor islands, returning to some form of in-person learning will still pose a health and safety risk and inevitably cause these numbers to increase. This risk prompted Hawaii’s three neighbor island mayors to send a letter Wednesday urging the governor to keep public school and university campuses closed for 28 days.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said, “I feel strongly that we are part of one, unified school system, and all children across the state should have accessibility to learn online. We would have liked the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) plan to be a cohesive one. Kauai would like the same consideration to move to a distance learning option for our students at the start of the school year.”

HSTA also disagrees with the plan’s third phase, which schedules a transition to blended learning on Sept. 14. HSTA has consistently requested that the Hawaii State Department of Health provide clear written guidance regarding the rate of positive coronavirus tests, community spread, and metrics to determine the ability of schools to resume in-person instruction safely. Today, the state offered no specific triggers for when it would be safe to reopen schools or when schools would have to close to students again. Setting an arbitrary date mid-quarter is problematic and does not meet this need.

HSTA believes all educators should be given the option to telework. Even as Oahu public school students are shifting to 100-percent distance learning, educators are still required to report to campuses and worksites. That appears to violate HSTA’s contract under Article X. Teacher Protection: “G. When students are sent home from school or are not required to attend due to emergencies which endanger health or safety, teachers will not be required to remain at, nor report to, said schools.”

Throughout this crisis, HSTA has fought for the health and safety of our members and our keiki, from guidelines regarding physical distancing and mask wearing on our campuses to proper time and training for our educators. We can’t wait to welcome our students back to our school campuses, and will continue to advocate for the safest return for all.

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