Educators continue to make tough calls with transition to blended learning

About 65% of Hawaii schoolchildren are getting some combination of in-person and remote learning.
Published: Nov. 21, 2020 at 8:40 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2020 at 8:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - When it comes to choosing which learning model to follow, public school educators have to make a tough call.

According to the state Department of Education, as of last week, about 65% of Hawaii public school students are in blended learning, meaning there is some in-person learning paired with virtual learning.

Although different at each school, generally students in the blended model are in staggered groups, with a portion learning in the classroom some days, then switching online.

About 25% of students are fully in virtual learning, according to DOE. Only 10% are coming in to schools for full-time, face-to-face learning.

Principals collaborate with their coordinating complex area superintendent on decisions about moving toward in-person learning.

“Not being able to fully control what could possibly be the outcome if something drastic happens, that decision weighs heavy on me,” said Shayne Greenland, Eva Beach Elementary principal.

Greenland said the school already has welcomed back pre-kindergarten and special education students. At the end of the month, kindergarteners will be added to their blended model.

“We will assess our plan and if everything looks good, we will add other grade levels,” he said.

Mililani High School principal Fred Murphy knows the balancing act well. For now, his school is on the virtual model with only vulnerable learners and those with connectivity issues coming to campus full-time.

Murphy said that with 2,600 students, a blended model wouldn’t work with the current case counts.

“It just becomes exponentially challenging to have all of your students mixing classes,” Murphy said.

“At this time, it’s just not possible. We have to err on the side of caution.”

Waialua Intermediate and High School have allowed both seventh and eighth graders learn with the blended model.

The decision came after the school saw how difficult it was for seventh graders to transition to intermediate school.

“Jumping into eight teachers and eight periods was a real struggle for them,” said Waialua principal Christine Alexander. “So after the first quarter of mid quarter, we noticed a huge increase in failing grades and reached out to the community and the parents. And we decided to bring those students back by cohorts.”

The school hopes to welcome all students back to a blended model January.

Sean Tajima is the Complex Area Superintendent for the Campbell-Kapolei area. He said decisions are in the hands of the individual schools, but all area principals consult with one another as well as the superintendent.

He said his area’s approach involves slowly adding small groups of students, such as a grade level, to the blended model.

“If it goes well for a few weeks, we look at transitioning more students back gradually,” Tajima said. “But we just didn’t want to open the floodgates and have a spread on campus.

As of last week, public schools in Hawaii have seen 239 positive cases since summer among staff, students and contractors, according to DOE.

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