HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Education (DOE) has agreed with the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) and Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) and United Public Workers (UPW) to push back the reopening of public schools.

The Department of Education is submitting the recommendation to the Board of Education.

According to an email obtained by KHON2, this delay would move the start date from August 4 to August 17.

In a statement to KHON2, superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said:

HIDOE leadership has been working with the unions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure our students get the education they deserve and our employees have a safe work environment. We have continued these conversations and reached a conditional agreement today to propose a delayed start for students to accommodate concerns regarding employee training. 

Throughout our discussions, we were mindful that any adjustments to the calendar must focus on educating and supporting students. We also acknowledge the voice of our families, partners and employees who are not represented by the unions yet are impacted by this decision. 

We will use this time to prepare at yet another level, but I recognize this comes at a cost for public school parents and our students. My expectation is that if the board approves the two-week delay, that our labor partners will do an aggressive push to their members to be at schoolhouse doors on day one for our students.

Dr. Christina Kishimoto

Prior to this, the DOE was pushing for the August 4 start date.

“I understand people are nervous about reopening,” said Dr. Christina Kishimoto. “We all are as educators. We have dedicated our careers to serving our children. This is a time to show our community that children are our priority as we help with state reopening.”

With COVID-19 cases surging in the islands, many educators say more training is needed before welcoming students back to classrooms. Last week Radford High School principal James Sunday spoke about why more time was needed.

“We’re not saying that we don’t want to open,” said Sunday. “It’s give us time to work with our faculty and staff to make sure that we’re prepared to accept our students and making sure parents feel comfortable that their kids are in a safe environment. There’s guidelines in place.”

All school employees are still being asked to report in this week to start training and preparations.

However, there are still some questions that come with delaying that start of the school date, such as, how will schools make up for those two missing weeks in the school calendar?

Kishimoto hasn’t addressed that yet.

The next Board of Education meeting is on Thursday, July 30. A decision on whether to approve the department’s request could be made at that meeting.