Ahead of new school year, educators are hopeful, anxious ― and ready to make up for lost time

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Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 5:43 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 28, 2022 at 6:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Teachers hope that more than ever, this school year will focus on learning. ―

Educators and staff members are back on campus prepping for the new school year, which starts Monday.

They said this back to school feels very different than in years past.

“I think my classroom is probably better decorated than my home,” joked Meagan Kautz, a third-grade teacher at Hookele Elementary School in Kapolei. “I am so excited for the beginning of the year.”

“I spent my first year teaching online,” recalled fifth-grade teacher Jordyn Valdez.

“So last year, it was really nice to welcome the kids back on campus. I’m excited to bring the kids back on campus again this year, especially with the COVID protocols lessening a bit.

Campbell-Kapolei Complex Area Superintendent Sean Tajima hopes for a more “normal” year.

COVID protocols remain mostly the same, except for masks.

“The most significant change is that masking is now optional, both indoor and outdoor,” Tajima said. “It’s sort of up to people’s choice and what they feel comfortable with.”

Earlier in July, the DOE announced that masking will be optional, but strongly recommended.

“I think we have teachers on both sides of the spectrum on that,” said Bryan Rankie, Hookele Elementary principal. “We’re very optimistic and they’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that their students feel safe.”

“I probably will continue wearing mine,” said second-grade teacher Natalie Wong, who also has a daughter going into the second grade,

She said teachers are excited to help students get caught up.

“I think we all know that they need to be in person,” Wong said.

But COVID and educational challenges remain. The Campbell Kapolei Complex Area still has an average of four teacher vacancies per school, as well as a shortage of substitute teachers.

Tajima believes classrooms will be staffed on the first day of school.

He also said campuses will be flexible with covid protocols.

“There may be a time that we need to transition to required masking again, that’s if there’s an outbreak in school,” Tajima said. “An outbreak will be defined as 20% of a classroom or 20% of a grade level is out sick, or if 10% of a school.”

Tajima said they will consult with the state Department of Health if a school reaches those levels.

“It’s a much better opening to the school year,” Tajima said. “We’re all looking forward to being back in person with minimal mitigating strategies. So we’re all looking forward to being back in normalcy again.”

Tajima said teachers and staff will still have normal sanitization protocols in place as well as exposure procedures.

There are also incentives in place for special education, remote teachers, and Hawaiian emersion teachers.

But staff and parents said they are hoping learning will be the focus this year.

“I’m really excited for her to just get back and start a school year normal and as it should be,” said Wong.

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