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DOE releases list of schools offering distance learning this fall, but big concerns remain

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:58 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 10:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 100 schools statewide will offer some form of distance learning when students return to school on Aug. 3.

But in the vast majority of the cases, teacher will only be responsible for grading and parents will oversee their child’s online instruction, according to the state Department of Education’s list of schools offering distance learning.

[Get the full list of schools offering distance learning by clicking here.]

And with less than two weeks before students return to classes, some parents criticized the state for taking too long to develop a distance learning program that they say is inadequate.

“It’s very disappointing. I can’t say I’m surprised that the state has waited so long to come up with a plan to be transparent. It’s been the state’s philosophy my whole life,” said Bryan Costa, a parent of an Ewa Beach third grader.

Costa was critical of the distance program at his 8-year-old daughter’s school because there’s no interaction with teachers, who are only there for grading.

But he said he’s more worried about sending her to in-person classes because she has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She’s high-risk and is too young to be vaccinated, he said.

He added that recent surge in COVID cases is alarming — since many involved children who were not vaccinated.

“We’ve seen the case numbers rise ... with very limited interaction with children,“ he said.

“Now once they attend school, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the case count is going to rise.”

The DOE said parents who want to participate need to contact their school principal, who will refer students to the state for eligibility. It said there are limited seats, on a first come, first served basis.

“I think for something that they had to handle on very short notice,” said Catherine Payne, the chair for the Hawaii Board of Education. “This is a positive step for the long term. We definitely need to take a look at how we can improve on what we’ve learned over the last year and a half.”

Payne said the board will be following up to make sure distance learning is effective.

In a Zoom town hall on the safer return to school Wednesday, infectious disease Dr. Jonathan Dworkin recommended that those who are high risk should consider online learning.

“If I had a child that I knew was especially high-risk and had a number of medical conditions, I would seriously consider what the school setting is for that child and whether or not it was more appropriate to do distance learning,” Dworkin said. “At least until we have better control.”

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