HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Board of Education votes to postpone school for public school students until August 17.
The decision came after hours of testimony and discussions. The delay is meant to give schools more time to train, prepare and develop adequate safety protocols. Some worry two weeks isn’t enough time and voiced concerns that they still lacked guidance from DOH, which is needed in order to safely welcome students back to campus.
Teachers and schools have two extra weeks to prepare for the return of nearly 180,000 public school students.
Hundreds provided testimony over the last two weeks in favor of the delay. Many voiced their frustrations.
“Our kids are not replaceable. Learning can occur without unnecessary risks to us, them, their entire families and our communities at large. Only the people who are so far removed would believe that schools are a controlled environment. This is ignorantly hopeful,” said teacher Kylie Sanchez.
“We all have to take a step back and ask ourselves what are we doing? This is crazy. The current reopening plan is reckless. It will make people sick, some of them will die. It is that simple and we all know this,” said teacher Burk Burnet.
“As I sat on my computer listening to testimony, I realized all the members of the board, including the superintendent, were not sitting in the same room in order to keep themselves safe, but they were discussing having us, the teachers, sitting in a classroom with students,” said teacher Kevin Bullocks.
HSTA president Corey Rosenlee expressed the need for the board to take additional action.
“On behalf of HSTA, I request that the BOE hold another meeting so the questions posed by all three unions and their employees be answered before school begins specifically on the motion to get further written guidance from the DOH and the DOE,” said Rosenlee.
Rosenlee also aired his disappointment in the lack of transparency by the DOE and DOH. He said he was upset that he had to find out about six positive cases of COVID-19 in summer schools through the media and not directly through the state agencies.
“This important information was never shared with the HSTA during any of our negotiations, nor during any of the process to consider exemptions of the six-foot distancing rule.”
Rosenlee said the lack of transparency erodes trust and he asked if any future outbreaks in school would be shared with the public and this board.
Though the majority of people who testified were in favor of the change, not everyone agreed it was the best plan of action.
Board member Bruce Voss cast the only vote against the delay. He suggested students begin school on August 4 as originally planned but via distance learning at all schools.
“This proposed schedule change is just a very bad deal for students. Students lose nine instructional days. There will be no instruction of any kind until at least August 17th and it’s not clear how students will benefit from these non traditional training days.”
In a letter to BOE Chairperson Chatherine Payne dated July 30, 2020, Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto wrote:
“The Department, HGEA, HSTA, and UPW agreed upon the August 17, 2020 start date for students. This will allow for an additional nine (9) days without students for training and professional development for school employees. The nine (9) days will include mandatory Department-directed training as well as administrator-directed training.”
Some questioned how effective the training would be.
Board member Dwight Takeno said there is nothing to ensure safety protocols are going to be addressed during the training.
Kishimoto assured the board that training would include adequate safety protocols.
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