Private schools prepare to teach students remotely if virus shuts campuses down

School closures are being discussed at every level

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - School closures are possible if coronavirus begins in the community so some of Hawaii’s private schools have fast tracked training so students can learn online.

All week at Iolani School, students scattered around the campus while teachers continued instruction inside the classroom to ensure the system works properly.

La Pietra, Mid-Pacific Institute, St. Andrew’s Priory School and Damien have also said they are also ready for distance learning if the pandemic forces a shutdown.

Other private schools say they are finalizing preparations and some are extending spring break to allow more time.

Zack Linnert, dean of Iolani’s lower school, says they started preparing weeks ago with software updates, but ramped up in the last few days.

“Are we ready? yes," Linnert said. "Would we want a little more time? yeah, we wish we could.”

Melanie Pfingsten, also a dean, says students embraced the change faster than the staff and parents.

“The kids are quick. They’re quick, we’re less worried about the kids honestly," she said.

There are more than 2,000 students at Iolani School and each has an iPad.

It’s impossible to provide that kind of technology to public school students.

The Hawaii Department of Education says they are in discussions with other state officials on how to handle any possible closures.

“The department understands that the decision to close schools would be made only after serious consideration due to its far-reaching impacts and tremendous community disruption,” said Lindsay Chambers, in a statement to Hawaii News Now.

“There are numerous factors to consider when it comes to closing schools or moving classes online including serving students with special needs, those without internet connection or devices at home, and impacts to our employees.”

While the idea of remote learning will take getting used to, it could become a valuable option for students who have extended illness or other emergency events.

“It would never replace the classroom experience," Pfingsten said, adding that in the event of a hurricane or tsunami warning it could be used again.

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