On the evening of Tuesday, May 26, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) posted a memo announcing the new requirement that all employees who were previously working from home need to “return to the workplace starting June 1, 2020, unless prior agreements are made after the issuance of this memo.”

This announcement comes after Gov. David Ige issued his 8th supplementary proclamation related to COVID-19 in which the State of Hawaii is now under the “Act with Care Order.”

This latest notice does not apply to 10-month teachers because their last day of work for the school year is May 29 and they don’t return until July 29, the first workday of the new school year. (Note: Multi-track year-round schools and some public charter schools have a different start date for SY 2020–21.)

HSTA leaders will stream a live briefing on Facebook and YouTube this Friday, May 29, at 4 p.m. to go over the latest developments including what we know about summer programs and plans for reopening campuses for SY 2020-21, and to answer your questions. Sign language interpreters will be a part of this presentation. If you miss it, video of this briefing will be archived and available to watch online at a later time.

Twelve-month teachers will continue to work over summer. It is the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s (HSTA) understanding that 12-month teachers will conduct their regular 12-month job responsibilities, and their individual worksites should follow the guidance in the memo about these topics:

  • Entering department facilities
  • Maximizing social distancing
  • Practicing good hygiene
  • Sanitation

Last week, after the HSTA learned of the HIDOE’s plan to have 12-month teachers return to worksites on June 1, we advocated for the opportunity for teachers to request telework.

The memo outlines an option to request telework at the top of Page 2. More information and a link to the HIDOE’s Telework Guidelines and Agreement can be found here.

The memo indicates that “telework should continue to be the first consideration” for employees who can be as “functional and productive as when in the workplace with sufficient access to all necessary information, materials, and equipment.” The memo further explains that worksites can also make arrangements for rotation of staff and/or a combination of telework and in-office work for staff to allow for operations. The option of requesting and getting approval for telework is currently available from June 1 through July 28, 2020.

HSTA strongly recommends that all interested 12-month teachers immediately fill out the telework application/request and submit to their immediate administrator.

In addition, we would like to provide a few FAQs about this latest development.

Q1: Who has to approve the telework agreement?

According to HSTA discussions with HIDOE, the principal will approve an agreement as the superintendent’s designee. In some cases, complex area superintendents (CASs) are requiring principals to submit requests to the CAS level for final approval.

Q2: Can my request for telework be denied?

Yes, however, it should be for a good reason because “telework should continue to be the first consideration.” It is HSTA’s understanding that, as much as possible, worksites should be attempting to facilitate telework agreements through the summer. If a teacher is absolutely necessary at the worksite, the administration should try to provide telework on a rotational basis (e.g., one day in the office, four days at a remote site).

Q3: Will I be reimbursed for the use of my home internet, electricity, and phone?

No, unless you are designated an “emergency teleworker” by the superintendent. See Section IV L (Page 7) of the guidelines.

Q4: May I request to telework in order to stay home and provide supervision for my children who have no school and/or childcare?

HSTA recommends that teachers refrain from using childcare as the basis of their telework requests since telework will not be approved for such purposes. See Section IV U (Page 11) of the guidelines.

Teachers should know that they may be entitled to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the recently passed federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

Please refer to the HIDOE’s memo related to FFCRA leave, and download the FFCRA COVID-19 emergency paid leave form here.

Q5. I have been told that there will be a change in my job requirements this summer, and I am not comfortable with what is being asked of me. What should I do?

Please contact your HSTA school level leaders or UniServ Director for consultation and guidance, or submit a request for assistance online here. Your request will be routed to the appropriate HSTA staff for assistance.

Q6. I have questions about the health and safety rules outlined in the memo. What should I do?

You should discuss your concerns with your administrator. If they are unable to address them, and/or you still have concerns, please contact your HSTA school level leaders or UniServ Director for consultation and guidance, or submit a request for assistance online here. Your request will be routed to the appropriate HSTA staff for assistance.

Q7. I have a serious underlying medical condition and/or I am at higher risk for severe illness from COVID. I am uncomfortable having to return to a worksite. What should I do?

Teachers are strongly encouraged to pursue the telework agrement option to keep working from home.  Beyond the telework option, you may want to consider requesting an Americans with Disability Act (ADA) accommodation. Every individual has a unique health situation. An individual needs to engage in the interactive process with the employer to determine if their health condition and job responsibilities would warrant a need for accommodation. We strongly suggest that you consult with your medical provider and/or an HSTA UniServ director prior to submission.