As COVID cases climb, parents and teachers call for more distance learning options

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Education says 50 students are currently on a distance learning wait list. By September 7, they hope that wait list will clear, but some schools say the demand will continue to grow amid the surge in COVID cases.

“They want to keep their kids home,” said Glen Iwamoto, Waimalu Elementary School principal. “They’re looking for options other then sending them to school or keeping them at home and sending them packets of work to do.”

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The DOE’s statewide distance learning program currently includes 600 students. Teachers say with spots filling up, they’re left to catch the overflow of requests.

“At this point, we are still told it’s face to face, which means that we make those accommodations for our students that are at home for a variety of reasons,” said Vickie Parker Kam, Ilima Elementary School teacher. “So not having clear guidelines in the beginning does make it more challenging for everyone, students included.”

Last week, the Board of Education asked the DOE if mainland hires could help teach remotely. However, the DOE’s guidelines say teleworking from outside of Hawaii is prohibited.

“This talk about hiring mainland teachers to do distance learning, it’s really only going to do a disservice to our students who already have to deal with a bunch of teachers coming in from off islands or out of state,” said Osa Tui, Hawaii State Teacher Association president.

The DOE says its working as fast as it can to hire more teachers. With the weekly testing mandate for DOE staff going into effect this week, some schools are worried about teachers resigning. A few campuses are already asking others to step in and help.

“State office workers in the Department of Education who have desk jobs have been asked to please come and help support some of our schools out on the Leeward Coast and Kauai,” said Tui. “However, that takes them away from the jobs that they’re already supposed to be doing.”

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The DOE says it remains focused on ensuring safe in-person learning as the best education for students.

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