Parents, teachers, and even a public school student pleaded with the Hawaii State Board of Education Thursday to continue distance learning at public schools through at least the end of the first quarter, a decision state Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said she’s leaving to the 15 complex area superintendents across the state.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association believes there is a strong argument for principals to approve teachers teleworking to reduce the number of individuals on campus.
HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said, “There are still no metrics from the Department of Health and Department of Education on the requirements for safely reopening schools or when they should close. We are also concerned with the governor’s exceptions to our public school system. In order to reduce transmission, teachers should be allowed to work from home and no students should be coming on campus. Otherwise, he leaves gaping holes in these restrictions.”
Despite our calls to the contrary, many schools across the state welcomed thousands of students on campuses today, and additional face-to-face interactions are planned through the week. This cannot continue if we truly want to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in our communities.
In the last four days, the Hawaii State Teachers Association has received reports of employees at seven Oahu schools diagnosed with COVID-19, even before students return to public school campuses on Monday.
On Tuesday, HIDOE announced public schools on Kauai, Hawaii Island, and Maui County, with the exception of Molokai schools and Hana High & Elementary, will transition to full distance learning for the first four weeks of the 2020–21 school year.
Over the last few days, teachers across the state have contacted HSTA to report confirmed COVID-19 cases at four schools. In each of these cases, teachers were notified, but parents and the greater public were not. This is happening less than one week before students are supposed to return for face-to-face learning and testing on school campuses.
HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said, “Hawaii can no longer pretend we are not in the middle of a pandemic and that somehow our keiki and our teachers are impervious to this virus. As teachers, we know how important education is, but we are most concerned about the lives of every one of our students. Online classwork cannot replace face-to-face learning, but it ensures that learning continues and that our keiki and our communities remain safe.”
On Thursday, July 30, at 1 p.m., the board will hold a special meeting to discuss school reopening options. The agenda includes three action items that link to background, recommendations, and implications as submitted by the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE). On Tuesday, July 28, we submitted joint testimony with HGEA and UPW on all three action items, which we are sharing below.
BOE Chair Catherine Payne said the board will “hold a special meeting to address the concerns in the testimony about training and health matters that came up. At that point, we could also consider a waiver (of the 180 required student instructional days) for some additional professional development days.”