Union threatens legal action over plans for face-to-face meetings with students at start of school year

Union threatens legal action over plans for face-to-face meetings with students at start of school year
Hawaii Schools, file image (Source: HNN)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - While public schools will start the fall semester fully online, students are still scheduled to return to campus next week to prepare for online learning.

That’s not sitting well with teachers. And now they’re threatening to pursue legal action against the state’s plan for in-person instruction on digital learning tools.

“I have notified the Attorney General’s Office that I intend to file a lawsuit against the state of Hawaii to stop students from going to school on Monday,” said attorney Eric Seitz, who’s representing special education teachers and others to prevent face-to-face meetings with students starting Monday.

Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto says the threat isn’t stopping the plan.

“My email is blowing up with teachers saying we’ve got to get back to our kids," she said.

“And so we cannot ignore those voices. We have to figure out the right place to be in and the right delivery model while keeping people safe.”

[Read more: DOE says there have been 13 coronavirus cases at public schools]

The department says the meet-ups with groups of students are needed so they can connect with their teachers and ensure they understand how digital learning will take place.

HSTA says the plan simply isn’t safe.

“A child’s special needs does not make them or their teachers impervious to this virus,” said Corey Rosenlee, HSTA president. “High medical needs children are often less than 6 feet from their teachers and many are in high risk categories.”

Kishimoto called the teachers union’s concerns “fear mongering” and bad for relationships.

She also accused HSTA of breaking their previous agreements to allow teachers more time to prepare for the beginning of school.

The union, meanwhile, is accusing the DOE of violations of their contract and prohibited labor practices.

HSTA says it would be OK with a ‘grab and go’ concept for four days so students can get their materials, but the superintendent says that’s not acceptable to prepare for distance learning.

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