Despite changing policies elsewhere, Hawaii public schools are sticking to mask mandate

School districts around the country are dropping mask requirements. But Hawaii’s Education Department said there are no plans to change their masking policies.
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 6:04 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2022 at 6:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - School districts around the country are dropping mask requirements. But Hawaii’s Education Department said there are no plans to change their masking policies.

In a newsletter, the DOE said that they are following the guidelines of the state Department of Health, which is aligned with the CDC’s guidelines.

And parents appear to support that approach.

At Kahala Elementary on Wednesday, several parents said they want to see masks kept on.

“You get used to it and it’s more safety,” said Wei Huang, a parent.

But Mohamed Doma said that if the CDC approves, he would not mind maskless classes.

“Most of the kids are now vaccinated,” Doma said.

Doma’s 8-year-old son, however, disagrees with his dad.

“I will still leave my mask on,” said Kai Doma. “Then I would feel safer.”

A few parents, though, think it’s time.

“I think that inside the room they can take off the mask, it’s better for the kids, you know?” said parent Lyli Ntuyen.

Rowena Bonilla’s son would certainly benefit from seeing faces, but she is still worried if all the students are not vaccinated.

“Being a deaf child, it’s very important to see teachers with lip reading and everything,” she said.

Shirley Yamauchi, an eighth grade teacher, said wants to keep the face coverings.

“I would for me, because I am respiratory compromised,” Yamauchi said. “But everybody is different.”

On Monday, Iolani School returned to optional mask-wearing outdoors for some grade levels. They said that with cases going down and weekly pool testing, they felt good about the decision.

“If we continue to see very nearly zero positive cases, we will further lessen our PPE policy for both the Upper and Lower Schools in the weeks to come with the goal of entirely optional use at some point in the near future,” Tim Cottrell, head of school, said in a statement.

While epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller said optional mask-wearing outdoors can be safe in many instances, classrooms are simply too risky without them.

“This virus just like other respiratory viruses, it really is transmissible among the younger age groups,” said Miller. “And if you want to keep your kids safe, that’s what you should do.”

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