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As surge drags on, DOE outlines its criteria for deciding if a school should switch to virtual learning

Schools Superintendent Keith Hayashi says staffing, appropriate supervision outside of the classroom, and key support services are considerations.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 5:22 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:35 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Schools Superintendent Keith Hayashi says staffing, appropriate supervision outside of the classroom, and key support services are the considerations the department is using to determine whether a school should temporarily move to distance learning.

Hayashi outlined the factors at a legislative briefing Tuesday, but stressed every situation is different.

“The first (consideration) is staffing,” Hayashi said. “Are there enough trained and certified staff to safely run the school? This will look differently on every campus.”

With as many as 2,200 teachers and staff out last week, officials also look at whether there’s appropriate supervision for times like recess and lunch and whether essential services are covered.

“Such as bus transportation, meal service, running water and so forth,” Hayashi said.

Since the return from winter break, Hayashi confirms three schools have temporarily transitioned to distance learning.

The first was Waianae Intermediate on Jan. 10. Students came back to class the following day.

On the North Shore of Oahu, children returned to Sunset Beach Elementary Tuesday morning after three days of distance learning.

And on Kauai, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School shifted to distance learning Tuesday ― for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, Hawaii State Teachers Association President Osa Tui says the union has never been made aware of the state Department of Education’s criteria for moving to distance learning.

“We would have liked to have some kind of template that schools could follow should the need arise,” Tui said, adding the formula also raises more questions.

“For teachers, how do you start a lesson when half the class is not there? And for our students there’s no teacher. So how do they get the lesson in that case?

He added, “Right now things are just at a critical juncture and we need to make sure there’s a plan for when things get worse.”

Hayashi says the department recently lowered its substitute teacher requirements in an effort to attract more applicants. To qualify, applicants need a high school diploma and to pass an online course.

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