How Hawaii private schools are preparing for the fall semester in a pandemic

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Public school students head back to school on August 17, but what about private schools?

Hawaii Baptist Academy is delaying the first day of school to Aug. 10. It’s preparing for a hybrid of in-class and online learning–something all private schools are preparing for.

There are roughly 180,000 students enrolled in Hawaii’s public schools, and all are looking to the Department of Education for guidance.

Then there are the private schools–more than a hundred. They all range in size from just a few dozen students to nearly 5,500 at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama.

Each school marches to their own beat of the drum.

“One hundred and twenty of them and each one’s independent–absolutely,” said Hawaii Association of Independent Schools Executive Director Philip Bossert.

Bossert says that while the schools ultimately chart their own path when it comes to when, and how, to welcome their students back to class, he offers them guidance almost daily.

“During the past three months, we’ve arranged for webinars with the Department of Health, with the Department of Human Services, with several organizations in the mainland–to provide guidance, and the like, update them every day on what the Hawaii State Emergency Management Agency is doing,” Bossert said.

While the pandemic has created many challenges for private schools, first and foremost– implementing safety measures and procedures, Bossert says enrollment has remained relatively stable.

“In almost every case, they had to find additional financial aid to help make that possible. I’m sure some of our schools have experienced some reduced enrollment. But what we’ve heard for most of them is that they’re either at or where they were last year.”

Bossert says most schools are bringing students back the second and third week of August, using a staggered start for different grade levels. While they’re all hoping to get to in-class learning, he says they all have a plan B.

“The private schools–most of them are very flexible in what they’re doing and
they are all ready to switch, if necessary, to an online version.”

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