HONOLULU (KHON2) — With the surge in COVID-19 cases, the teachers union wanted to delay the start of the school year, which is Tuesday, Aug. 3. However, state and health officials say the most important thing is getting kids back in the classroom.
The health department director says it doesn’t matter when school starts, there will be a surge in cases no matter what. The important thing is to have the safety measures in place.
State health director Dr. Libby Char says the guidance is already there to keep the children and school staff safe. Keep masks on indoors and even outdoors when there’s a crowd, regular handwashing or sanitizing, and keeping the kids at least three-feet apart in the classrooms.
“This guidance is the same guidance that’s been provided to many other schools, and they have already opened. And so far, we can take lessons from them and see that the schools can be reopened safely,” said Char.
State officials add that getting the kids back to in person learning full time is the most important thing right now.
“Right now the state is open for business. With no other industry shut down, our schools are ready to open as well. And again, we’ve shown we can do this safely,” said state schools superintendent Keith Hayashi.
But the teachers union, HSTA, says school should be delayed at least for elementary school students because they’re unvaccinated.
“We’re concerned that cafeterias are gonna have children eating in close proximity to each other, and that’s one of the worst case scenarios for transmitting, especially the Delta variant,” said Osa Tui Jr., HSTA president.
Tui adds that the state should be looking into more options to allow distance learning.
“Parents are already being told that distance learning is not available. I asked the governor if we can even minimally start elementary schools in distance learning until numbers come down and was rebuffed,” he said.
But as for Kawananakoa Middle School teacher Corrie Izumoto, she says she has the tools in place to keep the students safe.
“Just making sure that they’re socially distanced properly, and I feel like having the PPE station available to them. So when they come in, they hand sanitize they may go to their seats, and making sure I reinforce all of the safety procedures,” said Izumoto.