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Hawaii Public Schools Resume With Anxiety, Excitement of New Year

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AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher
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Hawaii public schools today begin a month of distance learning to kick off the new school year.

But for many students -- and some parents -- it will be back to campus to learn in person how to use online technology and meet the teachers.

The teachers’ union opposes that plan. It says it’s not safe to hold in-person training while COVID-19 cases are surging.

At Kauai High School, about half the students, several hundred of them, are expected on campus to attend all-day classes for one week.

Jonathan Medeiros teaches language arts there. His wife is a public school teacher as well and they have two children.

"I’m excited by the prospect of getting to meet my students but I’m also worried about it," Medeiros said. "In the back of my head, and I’m trying to push it back because I know that it’s out of my control to a certain extent, but in the back of my mind I’m worried.

"My girls go back to their schools on Monday, my wife goes back to her school on Monday, I go back to mine. Nobody actually knows where the virus is and I’m concerned about everybody’s safety and I feel like maybe it’s too dark to say, but if kids go back to school, there will definitely be sick kids and that’s scary."

The state Department of Education says personal protective equipment has been ordered and is on its way. But Medeiros says so far he’s only been given a spray bottle of cleaning solution, one bottle of hand sanitizer and five disposable face masks.

The Hawaii State Teachers Union has filed a prohibited practice complaint against the state asking that the board issue an order preventing the state Department of Education from requiring teachers to report to school while COVID cases are surging.

But the DOE says that will not stop students and teachers from starting school today.

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