Masks aren’t required at Hawaii public schools, but many opt to keep them on

“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 5:30 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 1, 2022 at 9:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of public school students headed back to school Monday for the new school year. And while masks are now options, many students and teachers decided to keep them on.

“It’s nice to have that option,” Jonathan Riley, whose daughter Jaclyn is in second grade at Hokulani Elementary.

“We see a kid with a mask and we don’t recognize them. So it makes a big difference for students to have the opportunity to get know them and see each other faced to face and engage. It’s a relief and a nice change.”

Administrators still encourage masking when case counts are high in the community, but there is no more mandated physical distancing and class bubbles.

For some kids and teachers, being able to see each other makes a huge difference in learning.

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

“Even at recess, they were standing around and thinking who can I play with, but when they realized we weren’t closely watching their physical distance, they started running around playing,” said Hokulani Principal Ervin Pasalo.

Many children and teachers continued to wear their masks indoors out of extra precaution.

“At least 95% are still wearing their mask. I want to say that all of our teachers are wearing their masks indoors. Parents are encouraging their students to keep mask on,” Pasalo said.

Families are also advised to do wellness checks at home before bringing their children to school.

If they don’t feel well, they’re asked to stay at home and test for COVID to prevent spread.

Health officials say we’re still not out of the woods yet with COVID.

But after more than two years of online and hybrid learning and mandated mask wearing, social distancing and class bubbles, many are looking forward to a more normal school year.

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