‘A fresh start’: Public schools kick off new year with masks now optional

“We want to be sure though that they also remember that we highly encourage masking when COVID cases are high in our community."
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 8:26 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 1, 2022 at 4:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s public school students headed back to class Monday.

And this year, masks are optional.

“We are very excited to welcome back all of our students back to school this year. Parents should be aware though that masking is now optional on our school campuses,” schools Superintendent Keith Hayashi said.

But he added that masks are recommended, especially in areas with lots of COVID spread.

“We want to be sure though that they also remember that we highly encourage masking when COVID cases are high in our community,” Hayashi said.

“It is very important for them to remember that if they are not feeling well, you should keep your students at home and test. That’s really important.”

Teachers said they’re excited to welcome back students for the new school year.

“It’s a fresh start,” said Brandon Galarita, a teacher at Keelikolani Middle School.

“Being optional with the masks and being able to see the students’ faces, that’s going to be game changing because you can only see so much with masks. You see a smize here and there but sometimes you can’t catch a misunderstanding or if they are disgruntled, it’s really hard to catch these things.”

“Yes we are giving them an education, but we are also teaching them social skills, human interaction skills and even being able to manage their emotions. Those kind of things are really critical,” he added.

After a challenging couple of years with online and hybrid learning as well as wearing masks, students said there’s a lot to look forward to with classes ramping up again.

“It’s been difficult. Everybody’s been through a lot, so it’s nice that we can see people safe and healthy,” said Catherine Green, an eighth grader at Keelikolani Middle School.

“I’m looking forward to seeing more faces and to have more school activities,” added Jojo Vilar, who is also an eighth grader at Keelikolani.

For more information on guidelines at Hawaii public schools, click here.

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