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Public School Reopening Plans All Include In-Person Classes

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DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto at the department's reopening plan announcement.

When Hawaii public school classes resume on August 4th, some schools could hold all in-person classes, others may have more online instruction and still others a blend of the two.

 

The Hawaii Department of Education reopening plan unveiled on Thursday gives elementary, middle and high school grade levels each three options of instruction principals can choose from, but all include at least some in-person classes.

Public school superintendent Christina Kishimoto said principals would have the flexibility to see what works best in their schools.

“Their approval or their selection of the model is based on the enrollment at the school, the size of their classrooms, how many kids they can get onto campus,” she said.

“The first model is they have enough space to bring every child back to campus, so that's full face to face. The second model is really about distance to blended learning, some kids are going to have to rotate into the school because there isn't enough space to distance. The third model is really a blend of blended learning and distance learning, also bringing students in to the greatest extent possible.”

Kishimoto explained that academically vulnerable students will be given more face-to-face learning.

Principals statewide have until next week to announce which approach they’ll take in their schools.

Some of the strongest objections to the plan came from the teachers union regarding the physical distancing of students. 

The Hawaii State Teachers Association’s Corey Rosenlee disagreed with DOE’s decision to space desks only three feet apart rather than six.

“Placing students desks only three feet apart is ludicrous and dangerous, and puts our keiki their families and our teachers at risk,” he said. “This will only ensure Hawaii will have to close our schools again and go back to a 100% virtual model.”

He noted that about 30 to 40 percent of teachers are in the high-risk category for COVID-19 infection.

The DOE and HSTA signed an agreement on reopening the schools earlier this week. One stipulation was that desks would be six feet apart. Rosenlee said he is waiting for the Board of Education meeting on July 9th to take further action.

CDC guidelines say that desks should be spaced 6 feet apart when feasible. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says 3 feet spacing may approach the benefits of 6 feet of space, especially if students are wearing masks and are asymptomatic. 

Hawaii students will be required to wear masks on campus, but not in the classroom. There will be no temperature checks.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson explained the goal of the reopening plan is to keep students in small groups to limit their interaction with others.

He said that way, if a student becomes infected, it wouldn’t be necessary to close the entire school.

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