HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) held a virtual news conference on Monday in response to the state’s back-to-school safety plan.
Gov. David Ige held a news conference earlier on Monday with state health director Dr. Elizabeth Char and interim superintendent Keith Hayashi to discuss protocols in hopes of easing the anxiety some parents may have about sending their kids back to classrooms. Watch the news conference here.
Last week, teachers returned to work to prepare for more than 170,000 students returning to campus for in-person learning on Tuesday.
The Hawaii State Department of Health also released their guidelines for schools a week ago, which include masking and social distancing. Since sharing supplies isn’t allowed, some teachers are bringing in extra and have come up with creative ways to alleviate that problem. Click here to read more.
On Monday, Aug. 2, HSTA president Osa Tui released a statement during the virtual news conference.
“We’re disappointed to hear today that parent concerns and educator concerns were not taken into consideration as the Department of Education plunges head first with their plans and have no plans to shut down schools no matter how high the numbers surge,” he said.
According to Tui, transmission is so much higher than it was last year, but lots of contingencies are already being removed.
“Our members report that despite the department saying that they have strict protocols, there’s already been improper mask enforcement while forcing large group interactions over the past couple of days when they’ve had faculty meetings,” Tui said. “There’s already suspected transmission from some of these meetings as well as letters going out to a number of schools that there have been cases.”
There are approximately 13,500 teachers in the union, and about 80% of them have reportedly been vaccinated, Tui said. However, the concern for the contagious Delta variant remains high, especially since students under 12 are not eligible to get vaccinated yet.
Tui said parents are already being told that distance learning is not available. While teachers have no choice but to return to work, he encouraged parents to exercise their right to keep their children home if they feel that it is not safe for them to be in school.