Hawaii parents concerned about lack of social distancing at some schools

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — It is only the first week of school but parents are already sharing concerns about their students being too close together.

These parents are also worried about planned assemblies at some schools.

At least one parent decided to pull his son out of Niu Valley Middle School after he saw how close students would sit next to each other inside the classroom.

The father decided to remain anonymous but hopes his son can go back to distance learning.

He said, “We got the application forms and we just submitted them, but you know, it’s not definite yet and it’s not guaranteed, we’re hoping to get an answer real soon.”

Several parents wrote to KHON2 and said they saw little to no social distancing in classrooms, lunch time or when picking up their keiki at some schools.

Hawaii State Teachers Association’s (HSTA) Osa Tui said it is too soon for schools to hold indoor assemblies.

“Maybe we could have been ramping up slowly to these assemblies, we don’t have to have assemblies right out the bat, just getting the students acquainted with their classmates should have been good enough,” Tui said. “But it seems like we’re going to do full force everything like the there was no pandemic and that’s just really unfortunate.”

Administrators of the schools are following the same guidance from the Department of Health and the Department of Education, but they are implementing them differently.

Tui said McKinly High School, where he teaches, decided not to hold assemblies during the week of Monday, Aug. 2.

Tui said, “I’ve heard Farrington High School has also made a decision to have to scrap their meeting in the gym.”

KHON2 shared the parent’s concerns with the DOE and a spokesperson responded by saying the schools are enforcing four core essential strategies in every situation. These include vaccinations for staff and eligible students, staying home when sick, consistent masking and proper hand hygiene.

Social distancing is an additional mitigation strategy — but not a priority.

Tui said, “If the Department and administrators were to follow the rules that they have in their handbook with fidelity, I think there would be a lot more safe practices. But right now, we’re not seeing that.”

The HSTA also said they would like to see fewer in-person interactions between teachers and called on all schools to provide options for faculty to connect remotely to meetings.

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