Some parents say Hawaii is moving too slowly to bring students back to class

Updated: Jan. 29, 2021 at 10:34 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Roughly 74% of Hawaii’s public school students are spending all or part of their instructional time on campus.

That’s a significant increase from just a few months ago, but some parents say it’s not enough.

Concerns about the pace of bringing students back to class come as the CDC says reopening schools is safe — as long as mask policies are enforced and students socially distance.

Hawaii’s Department of Education leaders say they are committed to getting kids back to campus “as soon as safely possible.” There’s no concrete timeline and each school is different.

Parents say the situation is leading to confusion — and frustration.

“I believe strongly that it’s doing more damage keeping them out of school this long,” said Speshel Baybayan, who has four school-aged children.

She agrees with the CDC and says with proper precautions, students can be safe.

“It’s time already. It’s been a year and our children need to get the education that is due on to them,” Baybayan said. “I see that they’re not learning at the same pace as they normally would in school.

“They are falling behind.”

In its latest cluster report Thursday, the state identified dozens of infections tied to hotels, restaurants, construction sites and apartment complexes — but none in schools.

Epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller said as long as protocols are following “it certainly would be good for the kids” to resume more normal schedules.

The DOE says schools were moving toward transitioning to more in-person learning. That was the goal for the start of the third quarter, which began on Jan. 5.

However, an uptick in cases following the holidays slowed that effort.

Vanessa Ince has an 11-year-old in special education at Pomaikai Elementary School on Maui. Ince said her daughter, Alexis, is high risk and can’t wear a mask.

“That’s a little bit scary to have everybody go back right now,” said Ince.

“Some schools are more crowded than others and the classrooms are way more packed than others. So the possibilities for social distancing with a regular full classroom is really challenging.”

Although it might be “scary,” Ince sees both the benefits and risks of reopening.

“It’s kind of a weighing the pros and cons of keeping the kids safe from covid, versus keeping them safe from other consequences of isolation,” Ince said.

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