HSTA fights to delay start of in-person classes

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii State Teacher’s Association is raising concerns over schools reopening while new targeted restrictions are placed on Oahu.

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Tuesday afternoon HSTA called on the Department of Education to push back the start in-person classes to at least Oct. 2. With Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell urging residents to work from home if possible, the HSTA wants teachers to have that option too.

Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson admitted Tuesday that the DOH is still forming a plan to open schools safely, and that they’re using CDC guidelines as a map.

“The CDC has recently come out with some pretty good guidance on schools across the country and we’re leaning heavily on what they’ve put together, no sense recreating the wheels,” Dr. Anderson said.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee doesn’t think that will be enough.

“There has not been one example of a large school district in the entire country able to open up effectively,” Rosenlee said.

In its guidelines, the CDC says that there is mixed evidence about whether returning to school results in increased COVID-19 transmission or outbreaks.

Among those who are allowed back on campus are students who fall under the category of vulnerable. That includes those with special needs, English learners, homeless, and disadvantaged students. The HSTA says this makes up 57% of all students.

“There are some students who will be on campus because,” Governor David Ige said, “we cannot provide online learning for them, and so as required by federal and state laws, for those students we will be providing face-to-face lessons and programs as required.”

With new targeted restrictions encouraging Oahu residents to work from home, the HSTA has also been asking that teachers be given the option to telework.

We’ve seen a high teacher attendance rate of 95-96% the past two days as our schools have reopened to students.

By next week, students will be largely learning from home for the next few weeks. Teachers and principals along with tech support staff are working closely together to ensure quality distance learning supports for teachers.

Our campuses provide a safe and consistent work environment to continue supporting all students. Decisions must be school-based. Principals have the authority to make teleworking decisions on a case-by-case basis.

DOE Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto

Rosenlee doesn’t think that should be the case.

“It shouldn’t be up to one principal to dictate that much power over their students and the teachers,” said Rosenlee.

Hawaii Public Schools are scheduled to tentatively reopen and begin a blended learning approach on Sept. 14. An official decision and announcement is expected on Sept. 8.

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