DOE extends spring break but teachers union says resuming classes still a risk

Coronavirus

Hawaii public schools have extended spring break another week, so classes will resume on April 7. The teachers union says that still puts teachers and students at risk.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association filed a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board on Tuesday because teachers say resuming classes puts their health and safety in danger. The union says extending spring break an extra week does not solve the problem.

“I think that instead of putting a date, they should look at instead of opening schools when we know that it’s going to be a healthy and safety environment for our keiki,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.

He says the state is making a mistake. The union filed an additional complaint with the labor board Wednesday requesting that members not report to work until the pandemic is under control. Rosenlee adds many schools around the country have already shut down and Hawaii should do the same.

“Over ten percent of teachers are over 60, we have teachers who have underlying conditions themselves, we have teachers that have to take care of their parents or the elderly and they don’t want to put themselves in that situation,” said Rosenlee.

University of Hawaii announced Wednesday that it will continue with providing classes online for the rest of the semester. Campuses will remain open to students and employees. Private schools are holding classes online also. Rosenlee adds that online classes will not work in DOE schools.

“A lot of our students don’t have computers or internet. What we’re dealing with, a statewide problem across the state, you have students in Kohala or Molokai that may not have internet access at all,” said Rosenlee.

The governor says there would be too many impacts if the state closes its schools. Too many parents will have a difficult time finding childcare while they work. So he wants to implement some type of social distancing in the classrooms.

“That is a concern but I think any parent would rather try to find childcare opportunities than have a sick child or what a lot of our members are worried about is exposing someone,” said Rosenlee.

The Department of Education says it plans to release more details on bringing students and teachers back school at a news conference on Thursday.

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