Weeks before new school year starts, leaders have yet to answer a long list of questions

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Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:56 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:57 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two and a half weeks before the new school year starts, there are still a host of unanswered questions ― from masking rules to capacity guidelines.

Hawaii public schools have pledged to fully reopen to in-person learning this fall. But families who want to stick with distance learning still don’t know what their options will be.

Bryan Costa has a daughter in the third grade who was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

“Someone with Type 1 diabetes is considered very high risk to the complications attributed to COVID. Right now, we’re kind of lost,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem like the state has done any planning. It’s almost like they’re winging it.”

The board has asked outgoing schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to produce a plan for distance learning before the end of the month.

She said there should be information for families posted next week.

[Read more: All Hawaii public school students will get breakfast, lunch for free in new school year]

But teachers are concerned about what that’s going to look like and if it will be better than last year.

“We had kids who are online, and we had kids face-to-face at the same time, very hard on a teacher to have to do,” said Rebecca Hadley-Schossler, a special education teacher.

“The other issue is the fact that they’re waiting until two weeks before teachers return to make this decision. That’s ridiculous. It should have been done back in May.”

The deadline for the plan is only five days before Radford High school welcomes back 1,300 students.

“It’s challenging, we just have to plan for an opening with all of our kids,” said Radford Principal James Sunday. “And I think once we get direction, then we’ll pause and say, ‘Is our plan falling in line with the guidelines?’”

Mask rules and other safety protocols are also up in the air and school officials say they’re also awaiting more guidance from the department of health.

But just as they’ve done all throughout the pandemic, schools are determined to make it work.

“The guidance I said is very little right now,” said Sunday. “But that’s not an excuse. We’ll be ready for them.”

Costa hopes that safety will be at the front of school leaders’ minds as they make their decisions.

“To be sitting a few weeks out, still unknown of what is the what the system or the curriculum that’s going to be in place? That’s the ultimate failure in my book,” he said. “But we have the medical community that continues to make sacrifices and is committed to keeping us all safe.”

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