HSTA: Most Hawaii public school teachers don’t feel safe in their own classrooms

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 5:42 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 18, 2021 at 7:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After two weeks of in-person instruction at public schools, the teachers’ union says many educators are frustrated and fearful.

More than half of those surveyed say they don’t feel safe in their own classrooms.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association held a press conference Wednesday to report complaints from teachers across the state. They are demanding the Department of Education negotiate safety protocols with them.

“Our teachers are trying their hardest to keep their students as safe as possible. But it’s a Herculean task that’s been placed upon their shoulders and the frustration is overwhelming,” said HSTA President Osa Tui Jr.

Tui says classes, cafeterias and hallways are overcrowded.

“In many of our classrooms, students are forced to sit side by side,” he said.

Lisa Morrison is a teacher at Maui High School. She said she has heard from teachers at Kahului Elementary School that they already had to shut down at least six classes because of COVID cases.

She said despite the confirmed cases and even when told they had close contact with an infected person, vaccinated teachers are still required to come to school if they don’t have symptoms.

“Teachers who are vaccinated and who reveal their vaccination status, are not necessarily asked to test even if they are considered a close contact,” Morrison said.

The DOE said schools reported a total of 430 cases in two weeks. But the union says communication about cases and contacts is poor.

“On Maui, teachers at one school received a list of students who shouldn’t be on campus only to find those students sitting right there in their classes,” Tui said.

The department has said vaccinations, staying home when sick, masking and good hygiene combined will keep kids safe and keep schools open, which they say is safer and more effective than learning at home.

The HSTA wants the state to negotiate a binding agreement that would lay out safety rules including a plan to move to distance learning.

“Our teachers demand nothing less than coming to the table and working out to best move forward given the runaway numbers as the delta variant ravages our communities and spreads among our children like never before,” Tui said.

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