Public school campuses will remain closed for remainder of school year

Updated: Apr. 17, 2020 at 9:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s public school campuses will remain closed through the remainder of the school year, schools superintendent Christina Kishimoto announced Friday.

The superintendent also announced that summer school will largely be held online.

“Our buildings are closed, but our education continues,” she said, in a news conference.

The last day for students in the 2019-20 academic calendar is May 28.

Students haven’t been in class since spring break, and distance learning programs started April 6.

The state Education Department had hoped to reopen school campuses by April 30, but social distancing guidelines amid the pandemic continue to make that impossible.

Since schools have been closed, Hawaii’s public school students have been given ungraded assignments for remote learning, either through online systems or with paper packets.

But it’s not clear how many students have actually been reached.

Kishimoto said it’s up to principals and teachers to ensure students are connected to distance learning, and added that’s being done in a variety of ways, including by knocking on doors in rare cases.

When asked what percentage of students are actively participating in distance learning, Kishimoto said she is not collecting that data.

“We are focused on supporting our principals and our schools,” she said.

For teachers, it has been challenging to keep students engaged from afar – both logistically and emotionally.

“When I said goodbye to them on March 13th, I didn’t think that it was the end of the year. I’ve sent postcards, I record read aloud videos,” Logan Okita, first grade teacher at Nimitz Elementary, said through tears.

Earlier this week, Kishimoto announced that traditional high school graduations wouldn’t be happening this year and instead schools would look for other ways to honor grads.

“We all know in Hawaii that graduation is a culminating moment," said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee. "I taught seniors for years and this is something that’s so important to them. So I know there’s a lot of creativity going on. Some schools have been talking about doing a ceremony later on as well. I think that we’re going to have to wait and see.”

It would be a dream come true for Maui High School senior Nash Murray who created an online petition to postpone high school graduation ceremonies rather than canceling them outright.

He hopes Kishimoto hears his plea.

“I was going to be the first to walk the line in my family and that would have been monumental experience for me," he said. 'This is a moment for us to congratulate ourselves and everyone that we made it though these years, 13 years of schooling, that’s a lot.”

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