Superintendent now supports delay in reopening public school campuses

File photo of a Hawaii school
File photo of a Hawaii school(Hawaii News Now/file)
Updated: Jul. 28, 2020 at 11:10 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid a surge in new COVID-19 infections in Hawaii, the superintendent of Hawaii’s public schools now plans to seek a delay in reopening campuses.

In a letter to unions on Monday night, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said she will ask the Board of Education to alter the academic calendar so students return to school on Aug. 17 instead of Aug. 4.

“We ... reached a conditional agreement today to propose a delayed start for students to accommodate concerns regarding employee training,” Kishimoto said, in a statement.

“Throughout our discussions, we were mindful that any adjustments to the calendar must focus on educating and supporting students. We also acknowledge the voice of our families, partners and employees who are not represented by the unions yet are impacted by this decision.”

In recent weeks, a growing number of educators and other have called for more time to prepare for the return of public school students and ensure schools are a safe place for students and staff alike.

“No one wants students back in class more than teachers,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.

“But we want to be sure that we’ve been properly trained and supplied to protect against the coronavirus — and we want to fully prepare to conduct virtual learning and serve our students both in-person and online.”

In a milestone moment last week, the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers joined the teachers union in calling for more time to prepare for the reopening of schools.

For weeks, the superintendent and other state leaders have insisted that school campuses would be safe for students to return on Aug. 4. And as recently as Wednesday the Department of Education was issuing statements saying there were no plans to change the scheduled school reopening date.

But number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Hawaii has also soared in recent days.

State Department of Health officials recorded three consecutive single-day records when it came to new coronavirus cases statewide: 55 new cases on Thursday, 60 on Friday, and 73 on Saturday. Another 64 cases were reported on Sunday, well above the average of 25 or so cases seen in recent weeks.

A special BOE meeting has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon to discuss the calendar issue.

This story will be updated.

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