BOE rejects HSTA’s calls to put off students' return to campuses statewide

BOE rejects HSTA’s calls to put off students' return to campuses statewide
The Department of Education said second quarter will continue “as planned,” which means some schools will gradually welcome students back to campus starting as soon as this month (Source: Hawaii Department of Education)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Board of Education members expressed concern Thursday about the plan for moving to blended learning at Hawaii’s public schools but opted not to derail the plan.

“There is some concern among some board members about pulling back and asking schools to delay because there are parts of our community that are safe,” said Board Chairwoman Catherine Payne.

The state Department of Education said second quarter will continue “as planned,” which means some public schools will gradually welcome students back to campus starting this month.

Corey Rosenlee, president of the teachers union, said he was disappointed by the board’s decision. “The inconsistency across the state when it comes to what is safe for reopening schools is dangerous,” he said.

Rosenlee added the board should have accepted CDC metrics for safely reopening schools instead of those developed by the Health Department. The CDC metrics say the risk is high if the case count exceeds one positive for every 1,000 people. The Health Department lowered the threshold to one in every 10,000.

DOH officials said CDC’s metrics were announced the same day they completed their metrics.

“For the Department of Health to come out with their metrics and say, ‘Well, the CDC came out the same day so we didn’t incorporate them.’ Well, it’s been 10 days. Why haven’t they changed it since then,” Rosenlee said.

The decision to reopen schools is being delegated to complex area superintendents and principals.

Rosenlee said several teachers are concerned about their health and they just want consistency. “How many people will get sick or die in this experiment?” he said.

“Don’t make our teachers and our students guinea pigs.”

Payne, a former principal herself, expressed her concerns about reopening campuses as well.

“If we don’t take care of our teachers, they’re not going to be around to take care of our students,” Payne said.

The BOE also decided that teachers could start to work from home, which was previously not allowed. However, teachers would still need approval to do that from their principals.

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