After a year of distance learning, kids and teachers alike are happy to see each other in person

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Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 5:08 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 3, 2021 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the face of a COVID surge, public school students, teachers and staff forged ahead Tuesday with the start of the new school year.

At Ewa Makai Middle School, education isn’t about long lectures but group interactions.

So to make that happen in a COVID world, there’s sanitizer, distancing and masks.

“That’s pretty much how my classroom is set up and how we are tackling COVID this year,” said teacher Tyler Vondernolen.

“We will be supplementing with a couple of online tools, but again technology should never replace education. It should supplement it.”

Free breakfast and lunch is served under covered outdoor seating.

“They pick up their lunch, they go to their tables here and as they finish they go to the back here and back to the field. Just right in and out and it works out perfectly,” said Ewa Makai Middle School principal Kim Sanders.

Parents said despite COVID concerns, nothing beats face-to-face learning.

“I’m sure my kids are excited to have real school curriculum rather than mommy home curriculum,” said Michelle Suzuki, parent and complex area lower specialist.

At the end of the first day at Kawananakoa Middle School, kids poured out of class and several cars waited in the pick up line.

Sixth grade English teacher Corrie Izumoto welcomed back full classes of students. “I was like ‘oh my God.’ All your faces. I just want to touch you. I can’t touch you,” said Izumoto, with a laugh.

She’s the complex area teacher of the year and believes both kids and adults need the interaction.

“To not be able to socialize is kind of devastating. They need that interaction. They are going to be our next leaders and if they don’t know how to interact, it’s going to be difficult,” said Izumoto.

Dreyven Lee had distance learning all last year so Tuesday was his first day of sixth grade and seeing other students in person.

“It was excellent. They were talking about what we had to do and the rules,” said Lee.

“It was good to talk to others and not be by the computer all day,” he added.

About 200 Kawananakoa Middle sixth graders went back to school Tuesday while the seventh and eight graders goes back Wednesday.

“It was so overwhelming. I felt so happy and we just got out of an assembly in the auditorium and the kids were so enthused about school,” said Ronnie Victor, Kawananakoa Middle School principal.

About two dozen are in distance learning.

“Because of data, we learned it is not as effective as face-to-face learning,” said Victor.

“As a principal, I do feel for the parents who are concerned,” she added.

The DOE says it has recorded more 1,000 COVID-19 cases systemwide since June 2020. Officials say it’s about mitigating the inevitable cases, which tend to be mild in children.

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