Uncertainty lingers over safety of welcoming back students to in-person learning

File photo of a Hawaii school.
File photo of a Hawaii school.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Oct. 7, 2020 at 10:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In-person instruction will resume for some public school students Monday, but a clear plan still hasn’t been released.

In the last Board of Education meeting, the DOE said it would be up to individual superintendents and principals to decide if face-to-face instruction would resume, or distance learning would continue.

Critics of the DOE’s leadership feel the department has not laid out clear protocols for what happens if a student or teacher tests positive.

The CDC also issued new guidelines about the virus being airborne, raising concerns about ventilation in classrooms, as it can now linger in the air for up to an hour.

“An air conditioner in and of itself is not necessarily bad as long as there is air exchange whether it’s through a window or through an air conditioner, it’s more how crowded is the classroom, are people able to be 6 feet apart, are people able to wear masks?” Dr. Janet Berreman, DOH advisor to the DOE said.

The health department says says any positive cases will be treated the same as measles or any other infectious disease, in which case the health department provides recommendations to schools on when sick students can return.

“It is often easier — and easier on families as well as on staff — for the school administration to be the ones who actually carry the information to the parents of the children in that class, but it is the responsibility of the department of health to provide that information,” Berreman added.

The teacher’s union has repeatedly called for distance learning to continue for as long as it takes to ensure sufficient protocols are in place.

The health department says it’s also still working to finalize guidelines for campuses to open in low risk areas based on CDC recommendations.

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