State slashes quarantine requirements to get teachers back in the classroom faster

Interim School Superintended Keith Hayashi said the staffing shortages are easing this week.
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 10:39 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 4:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As thousands of public school students return to classrooms for the spring semester amid an ongoing COVID surge, the state Department of Health has updated its guidance for campuses in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Isolation and quarantine times have now been reduced to five days.

The following guidance has been provided by DOH:

  • Students and staff who test positive for COVID should isolate for five days, regardless of vaccination status. They can return to school after five full days have passed since symptoms first appeared or when they first tested; no fever for 24 hours; and symptoms have improved.
  • Students and staff who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive should quarantine for five days if they haven’t been vaccinated; or are 18 or over and have received the first two doses but haven’t received a booster.

The new guidance comes as the state Department of Education reported nearly 1,787 students and staff tested positive for COVID in just the first week of the spring semester.

All schools are in-person for now, but the DOE said every school has a plan to go online.

So far, Waianae Intermediate and Sunset Elementary schools are the only ones going to online classes this week. Others, like Kahuku High and Intermediate, have moved some classes into the cafeteria.

“Students continue to be warehoused in cafeterias and in auditoriums while staffing shortages continue to grow. Interim Superintendent (Keith) Hayashi continues to be out of touch with the reality in our schools,” said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Osa Tui Jr.

“This is a problem that didn’t need to happen and it has just gotten worse by a lack of planning.”

With so many sick or exposed to COVID, some schools are also seeing a big drop in attendance. But Hayashi said staffing shortages and student absences have improved this week.

“Preliminary numbers are showing that teacher absences are starting to decline slightly from last week’s level ― it’s still 12% from last week’s levels,” Hayashi said.

“There’s been some instances where students were being supervised in the cafeteria or the gym if there’s no teacher available for any one of their periods. However, for the majority of the school day, most students are in classes.”

The new guidance by the CDC has also triggered fierce debate, with some saying they put commerce over public health. Others, however, say the new policy is practical and safe given the ongoing surge.

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