Tents offer an innovative solution to schools seeking socially-distanced classroom space

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 9:45 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 25, 2021 at 9:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the state Department of Education works to bring students back to in-person learning, some public schools on Maui are setting up tents to teach classes outdoors.

The “Temptation Island” TV show that filmed on Maui recently donated six event tents to Kihei schools: Kamalii Elementary, Lokelani Intermediate, Kihei Elementary and Kihei Public Charter School.

The tents are worth about $20,000.

“This enables us to take more classes outdoors with shade on our campus and further provide ventilation which enables safer learning,” said Michael Stubbs, Kihei Public Charter head of school. The K-12 school has 650 students.

Stubbs says bringing kids back safely with 6-foot social distancing has been a challenge.

State Rep. Tina Wildberger, who represents Kihei, Wailea and Makena, helped facilitate the tent donation. She says teachers wanted safe workplaces, but some schools lack space and were built with little ventilation.

“We put the two tents at the schools that had the greatest need. For example, Kamalii Elementary was built during the height of the cane burning,” she said.

“They built a school that was locked up and tight with no windows that opened. They only have these tiny windows that open at the top so they can barely ventilate,” she added.

The DOE says of the state’s 162,000 public school students, about 7.5% (or 12,000 students) are learning full-time in-person. Some 66% are on a hybrid schedule while 26% are online by choice.

School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto says the CDC guidance states students can be closer than 6 feet as long as other safety precautions are in place.

“The number one metric we’re looking to modify is the 6-feet of social distancing. Without that modification, we can’t fully reopen any of our schools because there just isn’t enough space to adhere to 6 feet,” said Kishimoto.

The DOE says its allocated $2 million in federal monies for air purification.

Wildberger says she hopes to get more tents to schools to bring more kids back to an outdoor class.

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