According to Hawaii State Teachers Association analysis of the new metrics, the DOH standards are not well aligned with risk-level metrics issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A day before the Hawaii Board of Education holds a special meeting on several key items including school reopening guidelines and telework for educators during the pandemic, the Hawaii State Teachers Association raised serious concerns that the state Department of Health’s new guidelines for the safe opening of schools are unsafe and much less stringent than federal guidelines.
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.
At Thursday’s BOE meeting, Rosenlee testified about HSTA members’ concerns and said, “The lack of action and transparency from the DOE has put the lives and health of teachers, staff, and our students in jeopardy. This was clearly evident today when the Department of Education and the Department of Health announced metrics for reopening schools. HSTA was never consulted in the creation of these metrics.”
In written testimony ahead of the BOE’s general meeting Thursday afternoon, members cited flawed Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) policies and procedures in response to COVID-19.
We want to inform board members about the real conditions occurring in our schools during the coronavirus pandemic, especially with regards to schools where all teachers are being unilaterally denied telework when requested, and conditions in classrooms with in-person instruction, particularly those involving special education and fully self-contained educators.
This formal written request follows the class grievance that HSTA filed Aug. 17 on behalf of Bargaining Unit 05 employees over violations to the HSTA collective bargaining agreement (contract) and memorandum of understanding (MOU) reached with the state of Hawaii in June.
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.