First day of school looks different under COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — No school in the state will follow identical reopening models. The district said each family faces different needs. Some schools will be fully online, while others will open its campus for students during the first week for teacher introduction and online learning support.

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At Red Hill Elementary School the teachers welcomed back students with signs in the parking lot, parents and students did not leave their cars, it was a way to uplift school spirit safely during a pandemic.

The Hawaii State Department of Education Superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, said she understands there are concerns from the community as the number of active COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

Kishimoto said, “We know how scary the situation is. There’s no one that’s not worried about this, and we know that situations in the community will certainly bleed into schools because we exist within the community.” 

Joey Lee is the mother of three children, her youngest daughter attends a public elementary school, she will pick up an information packet later this week.

Lee said, “At least giving my elementary school student the comfort of knowing, yes, it’s official, school is starting and it’s a nice way to do it in a socially distance and safe manner.” 

Lee said she appreciates getting a few moments to meet her daughter’s teacher this school year, and she plans to keep interactions as short as possible while maintaining social distancing.

Jonathan Hinderer is a history teacher and debate coach at Leilehua High School, where the students will be staggered throughout the week to attend orientation on campus. He had about seven students for each period, he was glad to be back and so were his students, but COVID-19 remained the giant elephant in the room.

“COVID-19 is that ever looming presence, it’s always there it has completely changed the scope of how we do things at school and the kids felt it,” Hinderer said. “They are kind of the silent majority in all of this, between the HSTA and the DOE, the parents, we seldom ask the students how they are doing and you could tell it bears down weight on the kids.”

Hinderer said he was glad to provide support to his students in person for at least this week.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association President, Corey Rosenlee, continues to push back against having any in-person interactions on campus. He said distance learning should remain 100% online.

“Even before students came on campus we already have seen schools across the state having cases,” Rosenlee said. “And I do expect that we’re going to see today when students and teachers were on campuses, you are going to see more cases.”

The Hawaii Department of Education said nearly all public schools will be full distance learning during the first four weeks, with the exception of a handful of schools in rural areas.

Teachers, students and parents have been preparing all summer for this day but there is still a learning curve for many of them.

Lee said, “Trying to be able to focus on where your kids need to be, you know, and keeping them on a schedule, it was a learning experience because they are home.”  

Most Hawaii public schools will transition to full online learning by next week.

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