HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Education has released new details on what the upcoming school year will look like at individual campuses, but some concerns are being raised.
Principals at Hawaii’s 283 public schools are able to decide which instructional model works for their campuses: Face-to-face learning every day, a blended rotation, or a combination of the two.
Dozens of schools have already announced their decision and many are opting for the blended model. Blended means students will be assigned to groups and take turns learning in person and remotely.
Radford High School will be using what’s known as an A&B Rotation model. Half of the 1,200-member student body will be on campus, while the other half works remotely.
“I think we tried to get the kids maximum time on the campus, letting them at least by live on campus twice a week, and also that blended version where they’re home doing work online,” said Radford principal James Sunday.
Offices and high contact areas, like the front office and the library, already have plexiglass barriers installed. Classrooms are still waiting to be configured with distancing in mind.
“So basically we’re going to try and set up with the three feet guidelines right now. We have some classes that are possibly going to do six feet,” said Sunday. Just trying to see that with half of our kids on campus, what will fit best for us. "
Each campus is required to have 180 days of instruction and must adhere to specific safety guidelines around mask wearing, social distancing and sanitation.
A priority for face-to-face learning will be given to kindergarten through grade 2 and “vulnerable” students. Manoa Elementary School will have its 563 students on campus, in class, full-time.
“Every student comes to school with a mask, and then in terms of what that’s going to look like in the classroom or outdoors in recess, we’re building our guidelines for that right now,” said Manoa Elementary principal Ryan Kusuda.
There are lingering concerns about whether the safety measures the DOE is taking are enough.
The teachers union, for example, has questioned the Education Department’s social distancing guidelines, which call students to be 6 feet apart when facing each other but 3 when faced in the same direction. That concern led the board of education to defer action Thursday on an agreement with the Hawaii State Teachers Association to reopen schools.
“While today’s deferral doesn’t stop the memorandum of understanding which is already in effect, board members gave clear direction that they would like the DOE to continue to work with HSTA to clarify language,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. “HSTA is still committed to protect the health and safety of our keiki and educators by maintaining six feet of social distancing and ensuring face coverings as both parties agreed to in our MOU on June 27.”
The head of the state public workers union, which represents other DOE employees, also voiced his reservations to the board.
“You cannot ignore that it takes all employees, the office staff, security attendants, EA’s (educational assistants), cafeteria workers, custodians and diagnostic teams, and of course the administrators, to reopen,” said HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira.
Hawaii school campuses closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and remained shuttered through the remainder of the school year, with students technically returning with remote learning.
But participation in those remote learning opportunities, which weren’t graded, was low.
A survey of public school teachers found that most of their students didn’t regularly participate in distance learning. Regular participation among secondary school students was in the single digits in some areas.
Public schools will reopen on Aug. 4.