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Teachers union rallies in Hilo over lack of COVID testing at schools, shortage of substitutes

Members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association say there is a lack of free testing in schools.
Members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association say there is a lack of free testing in schools.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 6:14 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 7:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Island educators held a demonstration Friday to address — what they say is — a lack of COVID safety measures at public schools.

Members with the Hawaii State Teachers Association gathered on Aupuni Street in front of the state office building in Hilo to urge the state to offer free testing at schools.

The group said the lack of testing options has forced students into quarantine and thus leaving them to miss out on in-person instruction.

“Right now, I have kids out five days, seven days, 10 days, and it’s so hard to keep up with those who are coming in and out at all times,” said Aaron Kubo, a teacher at Hilo Intermediate School.

“I have 120 kids and keeping track of all that on top of making emails and phone calls — it’s stressful. Also the stress that we could also be catching COVID as well and bringing it home to our families.”

The state Department of Education said 165 schools have registered to participate in a federally funded testing program at schools, and 67 are already actively offering tests.

Meanwhile, the HSTA also claimed there are not enough substitute teachers. Members said in some instances students have been forced to spend entire days in the cafeteria when full-time employees had to call out sick.

However, the DOE said they do not have a shortage of substitute teachers, adding that there are over 3,200 substitutes available.

In this week alone, the Education Department said only about 1,200 substitutes were requested per day.

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