Sunday night we reported that the teacher’s union and the Board of Education reached an agreement on a number of safeguards to help keep teachers and students safe when they return to class. The Memorandum of Understanding covers some safety measures for the next school year on a number of issues such as teachers who are at-risk from COVID-19.

The teachers’ union president says they would have to work with their principal to find out what options might be available to them. One option union officials hope for is teaching classes online so that teachers concerned about their health can still teach and not lose their jobs.

“Under the agreement, there are accommodations that could be made so we don’t lose teacher positions because the last thing we want is this situation exacerbates the teacher shortage crisis that we already have in Hawaii,” said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee.

We learned the first 9 days of instruction with students will be half days and include meals to allow schools and teachers to prepare and adjust to new protocols. Rosenlee says the same rules cannot apply across the board and many of these issues are going to be decided school by school.

The agreement also talks about instruction models and bell schedules. Instruction models include face-to-face learning or a two-day rotation where one group of students will be present on campus while the other group participates in distance learning.

“There has to be an allowance for teachers to share their views and ideas and if there is consensus, they go forward and if not, there is actually a vote and the idea is that everyone feels like their voice is heard,” said Rosenlee.

Over the next couple of days, Rosenlee expects there will be conversations with principals and teachers across the state.

“You are not going to make everyone happy in the circumstances so the idea was, can we bring our students back yet maintain that health and safety that is so important? So we try to find that compromise,” he said.

We reached out to the Department of Education and a spokeswoman says they will be holding comments until Thursday when the Superintendent will be made available.