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BOE to discuss distance learning options for families in upcoming school year

File Image / Hawaii School
File Image / Hawaii School(HNN)
Published: Jul. 4, 2021 at 12:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While students enjoy their summer vacation, Hawaii educational leaders are planning ahead for the upcoming school year figuring out how to incorporate distance learning.

The DOE previously announced that all students would be back to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 academic year, but BOE Chair Catherine Payne says many parents and families have inquired about distance learning options for their students. They’re now planning to take up the issue at their next meeting on July 15.

“Certainly the best place for children to learn is in the classroom,” Payne said during an episode of Insights on PBS Hawaii. “Some schools are already going into hybrid models. They’ve asked to do this as part of their design. And some schools are already planning for distance learning. So I think we need to just make sure that that option is available for all students who really really need it.”

She also pointed to Hawaii’s vaccination rate, noting that the vaccine isn’t approved for children under 12, leaving all elementary school students unprotected from COVID-19.

Incoming HSTA President Osa Tui Jr. said the HIDOE should tap into federal money to expand distance learning options.

One idea Tui floated was having dedicated teachers teach distance learning classes by complex, while in-person teachers focus on the class in front of them, instead of having to juggle both.

He also worries that forcing all students to return to classes could have a harmful impact on enrollment.

“When the parents say, ‘Nope, I don’t want to do that, I’m going to pull my kid out,’ that’s going to have drastic effects on the school and their budget. Their budgets are going to shrink and they’re going to lose teachers and what we want is to have qualified teachers in every classroom in front of every student and that’s going to be jeopardized if we continue down this path,” he said during the show.

Payne also said the DOE is working on obtaining licenses to use an improved distance learning platform for grades K-8, in the event it is needed. Use of Acellus — the previously DOE-approved distance learning platform — was stopped over concerns of “inappropriate and racist content.”

[Read a previous report: Parent complaints mount over use of DOE-approved platform for online learning]

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