Hawaii distance learning options are limited, increase in demand is leaving some in limbo

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii public school students returned to campuses on Tuesday, Aug. 3, and only a small portion did distance learning.

The demand for online classes is rising, however.

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The Department of Education’s (DOE) priority has been getting students back into classrooms for in-person learning, but they are still offering distance learning.

“Our schools and our complex areas are working very hard to support our students who have requested distance learning options,” Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said.

About 1% to 3% of students are in distance learning statewide, but the DOE said the demand is going up. The reason? Parents are worried.

“I don’t want them to catch COVID,” BJ Shavers explained. Shavers has two kids enrolled in public school.

“At this point, I’m so afraid of sending them because right now all the kids in my fifth graders’ classroom can’t get vaccinated so they’re really not protected over anything.”

The DOE reported 23 cases last week and at least three different schools sent letters home about cases on campus in the last two days.

Schools and complex areas are offering virtual programs and the DOE also created a statewide program, but space is limited.

“If they find there is a desire for the family for distance learning and they believe the child can be successful then they get on this wait-list,” deputy superintendent Phyllis Unebasami explained.

She said they are trying to hire more teachers.

Until then, many are in limbo. Until then, many are in limbo.

“Nobody explained anything,” Shavers said. “They just gave me the application and I just signed it and turned it in. So I’m just waiting for the approval.”

Unebasami said every school has a contingency plan if case counts get out of control, but they do not have a threshold that would trigger hybrid or full virtual classes.

“We’re interested in what others are using as triggers because we would use that to help make the department of education,” Unebasami said.

“So that, you still have to flesh out,” asked Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz.

“Yes,” Unebasami said.

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