HSTA raises concerns about DOH school reopening metrics

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The teachers’ union wants to know why the Department of Education (DOE) isn’t following the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) reopening metrics for its Return to Learn: School Re-Opening plan.

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Instead, the DOE is using metrics from the Department of Health (DOH), which the union said are less stringent.

Metrics are used to measure the number of infected people compared to the overall population. They provide officials with clear guidelines to follow when deciding whether to continue distance learning, move to blended learning models or resume on-campus learning for all students.

Hawaii State Teacher’s Association (HSTA) president Corey Rosenlee said that while the DOE cited the CDC in its guidance plan, it did not use the CDC metrics.

“It looks like the numbers to reopen schools were used to justify sending students back to campuses across the state instead of following the CDC recommendations,” said Rosenlee.

The DOH is using the number of cases per 10,000 people over 14 days. CDC is using the new number of cases per 100,000 people over the same time period.

courtesy HSTA

“The CDC, for its second category, would allow six to 15 (students) for in-person (learning) and blended (learning) for secondary (students), which the CDC would only have point five to less than two. In fact, the first three categories for the CDC are all only in the Department of Health first category for in-person learning,” explained Rosenlee.

The union said that it wants to know how the DOH determined its learning model parameters and what the data it’s based on.

“The rationale for the metrics is ill-defined. And it’s putting our public school teachers and educators in jeopardy,” said Rosenlee.

In a statement the Department of Health said:

“The CDC’s metrics were announced in the afternoon on the same day that DOH completed its proposed metrics for DOE. DOH is currently reviewing the CDC metrics and determining how it may be represented in the DOE plan.

In a statement, Hawaii State Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami said:

“The Department of Health’s overall guidance – including the recommended reopening triggers – has not been fully incorporated into our Return to Learn documents for schools as we review the intentions and language in both CDC and DOH guidance. The Hawai’i State Department of Education (HIDOE) continues to participate in DOH’s School Health Advisory Committee consisting of public, private, charter, preschools and medical professionals.

While HIDOE had requested a DOH representative be available to answer questions at the Board of Education meeting scheduled for tomorrow, we were informed this was not possible due to scheduling conflicts. We will continue to pursue opportunities for our partners and leaders to gain clarity around these important issues.

Under the Department’s tri-level leadership structure, complex area and school leaders are empowered to make decisions in the best interest of the students and communities they serve. This allows each school to review their individualized needs and plan accordingly.

School and complex area leaders continue to work with their school communities to gradually implement reopening plans that align with vetted state and national health guidance.”

The Board of Education is scheduled to discuss the issue during its meeting Thursday afternoon.

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