HONOLULU (KHON2) — Schools are beginning to see a rise in COVID cases, since June, there have been more than 1,400 cases within the Department of Education, which includes employees and students. Some schools are preparing for full distance learning options if cases remain on high.
COVID cases reported from the DOE more than doubled this week, from what was reported last week. The department detected 325 cases with its schools statewide between August 7 to August 13.
Cases at schools were expected, but Senate Committee on Education Chair Sen. Michelle Kidani said this week’s report is unsettling.
Kidani said, “It’s concerning, and of course now they are back in school, so we did expect the numbers to go up, it’s just, my expectation was that it was not going to rise by this amount.”
Kidani said she is hearing from parents, worried about sending their children to campus and who are requesting for at-home learning options.
With the Delta variant circulating at a rapid rate, Emergency Physician Dr. Darragh O’Carroll recommends staying at home as much as possible.
“If you have the ability to keep your kids at home to do distance learning, not everybody does,,” O’Carroll said. “I think it is a very wise decision. Also, if you have the ability to work from home I think that is also a very wise decision.”
At least one school, Niu Valley Middle School has informed parents of its preparations to switch to full distance learning if necessary.
The DOE has a distance learning program, but needs to hire more teachers to meet the demand.
Kidani said, this should have been done before the start of the school year.
Kidani said, “We’re a little bit behind where we should be as far as providing distance learning, I do acknowledge that.”
The Chair of the Senate Committee on Education said it is her priority to work with the DOE to provide more distance learning options and to keep cases down in educational settings.
In its weekly report, the DOE listed the number of known cases per school, the date they tested positive and the last time they were on campus. Kidani said it would be helpful to get that information more frequently.
Kidani said, “While they provide stats every Friday, with the rise in cases, I think it would be helpful to try to get it more often, every other day if daily.”
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The Hawaii State Teacher Association said it wants the department of education to come up with clear thresholds that would trigger hybrid or distance learning, similar to those in place last school year.