Hawaii schools get ready to welcome students back amid omicron

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — In-person school resumes Tuesday for most of Hawaii’s students.

With COVID cases still climbing schools are taking different approaches to get students back on campus safely.

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There’s been a push across the country to have students test before returning to class from winter break. Le Jardin Academy in windward Oahu is doing just that, having all 820 students as well as staff test negative before returning to in-person class Tuesday.

“It seemed an optimal time to do it as students were coming back to school tomorrow to offer on-site testing services,” Le Jardin Head of School Earl Kim said. “The antigen tests aren’t readily available in our department stores.”

Drive-thru testing was available from 1-7 pm on Monday for students and staff. The school is also accepting results of other kinds of negative tests if taken within 48 hours of school beginning.

“I feel so much safer knowing that my kids are going back to school,” Le Jardin parent Becky Zienkiewicz said. “That they’re going to be healthy along with all the other kids that are coming back. Healthy as well. As long as we’re negative.”

Iolani School also had test to return on Sunday for faculty and staff before starting class on Monday. All returning students are testing this week on campus, with only eight out of 800 testing positive Monday.

Also Monday the FDA approved Pfizer’s booster shots for 12-15-year-olds. Iolani says it anticipates CDC approval Wednesday and is planning to host a booster clinic Friday.

The Department of Education is not requiring tests to return when students head back to campus Tuesday, but say they are expanding school testing in partnership with DOH via federally funded programs – Operation Expanded Testing (OET) and Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC).

The Hawaii Teachers Association says that isn’t enough.

“We’ve been advocating that there should be testing on every single campus,” HSTA President Osa Tui said.

The DOE’s neighbor island PCR testing program is coming to Oahu this week with the ELC. Approximately 20 schools have signed up for that program and will begin testing students and staff.

Tui believes that more rapid testing is necessary to allow for test-to-stay procedures.

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“The other problem with the testing of the DOE is doing is that it’s not rapid testing, so you have to send it away to the mainland and get your results back in three days. That doesn’t really help to determine like, hey if you’re wanting to use this test to stay you need to have a rapid result right away and that is not available right now,”

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