Staff shortages, absences: Parents grapple with tough realities of schooling today

Parents express concerns about safety and the quality of education their children are getting as COVID continues to impact schools.
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 4:51 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2022 at 5:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s public schools are in session, but the educational experience kids are getting isn’t quite the same.

That’s according to parents, some of whom say staffing shortages and absences have left them with mixed feelings about sending their kids back into the classroom.

“So the first couple of weeks were a little emotional, sometimes overwhelming,” said Figen Midles, who has two students at Moanalua Elementary.

“They were trying to figure out what’s coming today, what changes there will be.”

Others are confident schools will keep their kids healthy.

“I think the school does a good job, keeping their distance, letting the parents know if there are any problems,” said Kristen Kuwaye, who has a third and fourth grader at Moanalua.

Her third grader, Ram, is happy to be back.

“I felt good about coming back. I got to see all my new friends,” Kuwaye said.

But some parents think sending their kids back is too risky.

Valerie Maluchnik has a child who is at high risk and doesn’t believe all families are taking the situation seriously. “If my daughter got sick, we’d have to go to Oahu,” said Maluchnik.

“There’s also the lack of testing and the lack of having those at-home tests is a huge concern for us.”

Cara Flores also held her kids back home. She’s not only worried about safety but low staffing levels.

“The quality of education they’re getting with so many people absent is pretty low for the risk that we’re putting our children in being so high,” Flores said.

Advocates said more needs to be done for students who have to stay home.

“As more kids are facing quarantine and isolation, we need to really ask what is the minimum level of support and learning that they’re going to receive during those times,” said David Miyashiro, the executive director of HawaiiKidsCAN.

Shirley Yamauchi, a Kapolei Middle School teacher and a mother, said the most important thing to remember is school staff members are doing the best they can.

“Have grace with us,” Yamauchi said. “We are humans. We have our own families, we’re trying our best.”

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