BOE chair raises doubts about plan for in-person learning at public schools

BOE chair raises doubts about plan for in-person learning at public schools
'Our teachers are scared': Teachers union, parents share concerns over Hawaii's ability to safely reopen schools

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The chair of the state Board of Education says public schools won’t be ready to welcome some students back to campus when the 2nd quarter begins Oct. 12.

That’s despite Education Department assurances to the contrary.

The board will be voting Thursday on whether or not to suspend in-person learning for the time being.

Schools have been waiting to bring students back to campus since July, but now the wait may be even longer. Both the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the chair of the school board — former principal Catherine Payne — say the standards the state Health Department is using to determine when schools can safely reopen are far more lax than CDC recommendations.

“The DOH is willing to allow 10 times as many cases in the community as the CDC numbers,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said.

Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is allowing local area superintendents to use the case counts to allow in person teaching or hybrid learning, which involves both online and in person instruction.

HSTA says that’s leading to confusion.

For example, Farrington High School on Oahu plans to welcome some students back to campus on Oct. 12 while Kailua High will continue distance learning through the second semester.

“The confusing part is that you have some complex area superintendents on the exact same island making different decisions, and this is putting everyone at risk,” Rosenlee said.

At Thursday’s meeting, Payne is expected to propose that the DOE review its metrics for in-person learning, set clearer decision making standards, and suggest keeping all schools in distance learning.

She and the union say the health department also needs to explain why it’s guidance for schools did not follow federal advice.

“Why did the health department fail to include these critical metrics that other states and school districts are using? It appears that the state is going for the bare minimum to justify the reopening of school, despite the continued danger of community spread,” Rosenlee added.

Health Department officials say CDC’s metrics were announced on the same day they completed the proposed metrics for DOE. The state adds the blended learning plans are evolving, and the department is determining how to integrate the CDC recommendations into DOE’s reopening plan.

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