Hawaii schools select learning models, but teachers union raises concerns

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Board of Education heard from concerned teachers and parents on Thursday, July 9, about the state’s plans to reopen schools. A big issue at the forefront is social distancing in classrooms.

Every campus has been given pre-approved instruction models to choose from and right now you can see what each school has decided by clicking here.

We learned the majority of elementary schools, 114 of them, will be doing a blended approach, which means that one group of students will be present on campus while the other group participates in distance learning. Twenty-six middle schools across the state will be doing what’s called the A/B 2-day rotation model. That’s face-to-face learning with online instruction.

Twenty-four high schools will be doing a hybrid of face-to-face and blended rotation with the most vulnerable students coming to campus daily.

“We must rebuild our education system to be excellent for all students during this new time. That’s the opportunity we have,” said the BOE Chair Catherine Payne at the beginning of the meeting.

As schools prepare to welcome back students, the details are still raising concerns. During public testimony at the Board of Education virtual meeting, the teachers union is asking to ensure that classrooms are configured at a distance of 6-feet apart and not at a minimum of three feet.

‘The idea that students can be three feet apart as long as they are facing forward, many teachers can tell you that these students will turn towards each other. In dealing with the Ohana bubbles is again unrealistic,” said Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) President Corey Rosenlee.

Rosenlee also says the decisions being made now will determine how many teachers we will have in our classrooms.

“From our poll data, we have seen that 37 percent of respondents, our teachers, indicated they are considering leaving teaching or retiring because of the Coronavirus,” he said.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto says she’s reached out to the union to further discuss the issue. She says not all spaces can be set up the same way.

“Not all schools have equivalent high poverty levels and we have a collective duty to provide a valid rationale for why we would not consider 3 to 6-feet of spacing to accommodate our students to the best extent possible, knowing that we are asking the majority of our families to figure out how they are going to be successful in this continued state of partial reopening,” said Dr. Kishimoto.

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