Hawaii's public schools go back to school under uncertain climate

Leanne Watanabe
Leanne Watanabe
Mitchell Otani
Mitchell Otani

By Leland Kim - bio | email

KANEOHE (KHNL) - It's back to school for most public school students in Hawaii. Just like any year, teachers and administrators spent last week getting ready, but this year, there are certain things weighing on parents' minds.

Gov. Linda Lingle, R-Hawaii, and the unions representing Hawaii public employees still have not come to an agreement on the furloughs vs. layoffs stalemate. This will impact state workers, including school teachers. Also, swine flu has not slowed down, which is not a good sign as flu season is right around the corner.

Students enjoyed recess on their first day back from school for the fall semester. It's a typical day at Kaneohe Elementary School. Parents and school officials are glad their kids now have a place to go.

"Happy to get them back in school but my son was a bit apprehensive starting another grade, but exciting," said Leanne Watanabe, a parent of a student at Kaneohe Elementary.

"It's always exciting to see the students come back, to welcome back to our campus," said Mitchell Otani, principal of Kaneohe Elementary.

But this year is a bit different than recent school years. There are still some unanswered questions as far as the budget is concerned. One of them is whether or not teachers will face layoffs or furloughs

Gov. Lingle and the unions have not come to an agreement just yet.

"That is a concern because you don't want class size to get too large, so that is a concern of ours," said Watanabe.

And health officials say the number of swine flu cases has stayed strong in Hawaii over the summer months. That plus the common flu could make this a very busy flu season for doctors' offices.

"I'm going to be sure to get them their flu shots, that's for sure," said Watanabe. "There's not much you can do. Kids always get sick."

And school officials continue to adjust to the changing climate.

"We've always had challenges and we will continue to but we will try to do our best to see what we can do provide the very best for our kids," said Otani.

Until they hear anything different from the Department of Education, parents and administrators will continue keeping their kids best interest at heart.

Seasonal flu shots are going to be available for public school students sometime next month. Then, the swine flu vaccine should be available in late October or early November.