DOE sets target date to bring elementary students back for full in-person learning

Updated: Mar. 2, 2021 at 10:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a year of pandemic distancing and nearly 180 lost in-person school days, tens of thousands of public school students could return to daily in-person classes soon.

The state Department of Education’s target date is March 22 — just after spring break.

Their goal is to have elementary students back in classes daily and more middle and high school students attending in-person learning.

Some parents say it’s about time.

“I think the timing is good,” said Kawika Chun, who has kids doing blended learning at Noelani Elementary School. “Spring break is a natural pause and it will allow them to may be slowly ramp up.”

“I just want the kids to go back to school because of the fact that they learn better, they need that socialization,” added parent Randy Nakayama.

The state Health Department has new CDC guidance allowing schools to skip the 6-foot distancing rules if they take other safety measures.

The school board chair asked the DOE for that target date to get everyone on the same page.

“I think we have to be really flexible on how we expect our schools to manage this and it will be different at each school, but i think almost every school is ready to welcome students back,” said Catherine Payne, Board of Education chair.

The DOE says it will still provide options for blended learning.

And schools will still limit visitors, volunteers and activities involving outside groups.

The DOE also plans to step up safety training for staff, its communication plan for reporting COVID exposure and its mental health services for students and employees.

“There is a lot of concerns that we have of course but I don’t think anything’s a deal breaker right now,” said teachers union President Corey Rosenlee.

Rosenlee said the HSTA is not ready to commit to a reopening date, but is willing to negotiate with the DOE.

“So, I am hoping that in three or four weeks the majority of our teachers will have been vaccinated,” said Rosenlee. “And if the parents feel that it’s safe for their children and they want them back in schools, then we have got to find a way to accommodate everyone.”

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