CDC guidance indicates most Hawaii schools should reopen to full, in-person instruction

Despite CDC’s new guidance for reopening schools, Hawaii DOE has not revealed updated plan

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The CDC has issued new guidance for reopening public schools for in-person instruction, but it isn’t yet clear when the state will fully implement it.

According to the CDC guidelines, most — if not all — of the state would fall in low or moderate transmission categories and so should allow full, in-person instruction.

In a statement Tuesday, the Governor’s Office said the state Department Education is working to “expand on campus learning safely and as soon as possible.”

That work, the office said, “aligns with the recent updates from the CDC and the U.S. DOE.”

Officials said that roughly three-fourths of students in Hawaii are learning on campus full- or part-time. The state didn’t say how many students are on campus full-time.

“Schools also must consider the unique situation of their school community and their ability to implement mitigation strategies such as physical distancing, mask wearing and sanitization protocols along with monitoring case counts and transmission in the broader community,” the DOE added.

The teachers union said Friday it is beginning to become more open to the idea of in-person learning because of the new guidelines and the rising number of teachers getting vaccinated. It said a recent survey of 11,000 members revealed 70% received at least one dose or have an appointment to get their first.

Where the union’s concerns continue to lie is whether or not teachers can choose to opt out of in-person teaching if they feel it is unsafe.

“So in this case, as more teachers get vaccinated, we’ll feel like there will be more comfort,” said Corey Rosenlee, HSTA president. “But we really hope that the schools and the system makes accommodations for those teachers that can’t get the vaccination and allows for some sort of system to be allowed for them.”

Lois Yamauchi, with Parents for Public Schools Hawaii, said many are hoping for more in-person learning opportunities while others are still hesitant.

“I think everyone is united in feeling like they want face-to-face education as soon as it’s safe,” she said.

“Determining what is safe, I think, might vary.”

Jill Tokuda, former state Senate Education Committee chair, said she is advocating for more in-person learning opportunities.

“Having that interaction, having that bit of hope for our children, something to look forward to, that’s so critical for our kids,” Tokuda said.

“As all parents, we struggle, you know, are we doing enough? And we want to make sure that our children have every chance of success. Teachers play a critical role.”

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