Despite uptick in COVID cases, some parents say it’s time to move beyond masks in classrooms

Although COVID numbers are rising in Hawaii and around the world, several people say it’s time to move on.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 6:21 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 4:51 AM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Although COVID infections are rising in Hawaii and around the world, several people say it’s time to move on.

Dozens of parents and children signs in front of the state office building in Wailuku on Wednesday morning. They want the state Department of Education to remove its mask mandate for public school classrooms.

“I’m here because my children shouldn’t have to be masked in school. No one else is being masked. A federal judge in Florida found that it was illegal to have masks on the airplanes. So, we just don’t understand why our children have to,” said Cheyenne Bruemmer, a mother of three.

The protest on High Street was just one of several across the state on Wednesday. Similar demonstrations happened on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Kauai.

Even some educators support unmasking, like Heather Sanders, a special education preschool teacher at Kahului Elementary School.

“I’m very passionate. I want my students to see my faces as well, and to learn to trust me, and to be able to learn the phonics, learn the speech they need to,” Sanders said.

Adding to many of the frustration, a letter was sent home to Baldwin High School parents last week stating: “No lei giving will be allowed.”

There is now a petition online urging the school’s principal to reconsider and allow the Hawaii graduation tradition.

Maui’s District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang says it comes down to personal choices and responsibility.

“If you’re going to give a lei, can you give it without kissing the person? Can you give it without taking off your mask?” Pang said.

Pang said it is also important to know when you should skip the ceremony.

“Nobody goes out and socializes if you’re sick,” said Pang. “And can you not get in big gatherings? Can we not have a group hug?”

DOE officials said the Department’s guidance on safety protocols for commencement ceremonies was designed to provide schools with flexibility as they continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions.

“While the guidance does not specifically prohibit lei giving, it does state that ceremonies must balance the desire to honor graduates with ensuring schools do not create an added risk to exposure and spread of the virus,” said DOE Communications Director Nanea Kalani.

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