HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii State Teachers Association is asking the state to delay the return of public school students to campus. The teachers union said it does not think the proper steps haven been taken to prevent and handle the spread of COVID-19.
“HSTA has no confidence that our schools, our school buildings are ready to open to our students,” said HSTA president Corey Rosenlee.
Rosenlee said they need more time and clearer protocols to handle a number of scenarios including what to do when someone tests postive for COVID-19.
Hawaii’s public school students are scheduled to be back on campuses August 4. Rosenlee wants that date postponed until more solid protocols are put in place.
“What happens if a student and adult on school campus, if a student teacher or other school employee, or one of their household members tests postive for COVID-19? Before we begin bringing students on campus this is a question that must be answered”
In an email the DOE said they do have protocols in place referring to their Health and Safety guidelines, which state:
“When a student becomes ill, the student should be sent to the health room. If there is no school health assistant on campus, the student should be sent to the designated staff member and the following steps should be followed:
The student’s parent or guardian should be called to pick up the student.
The student should be placed in a supervised, isolated area until he/she is picked up, especially if the student is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (do not have the student wait at the main office).
Any student sent home due to illness should be excluded from school until symptom-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medication.”
The guidelines do not list what happens if a teacher gets coronavirus, how to handle anyone who came in contact with the sick person or any protocols regarding class or school closures.
Hawaii’s COVID-19 Healthcare liaison Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said there are many questions that need to be answered.
“I haven’t yet heard how many tests they’ll make available, how many screeners will be given to the Dept. of Education to help screen cases. Those are really important things. I think those have to be in place before schools open. If the Department of Health can get that plan to teachers and parents before the 4th of August, then that’s fine. But that plan has to be clear and that plan has to be comprehensive,” Green explained.
Hawaii department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said the CDC will be releasing additional guidelines this week.
Anderson stands by the plan to create small groups or bubbles in schools to limit interaction between students
“The objective is to keep students together, not to have them mix with each other as much as possible. To limit the bubble, the cohort.”
“These are uncharted waters. We’re the first school in the country that’s seriously looking at reopening as early as we are. These guidelines have been developed by experts across the country and it’s a concept that in theory is good and we’re going to have to do our best to see if it works.”
If the bubbles don’t work, Anderson said schools may have to revert back to the distance learning.
Anderson said that Hawaii has a huge advantage because our COVID-19 cases are so low. But added that we still need to properly prepare and said teachers and staff need to be properly informed before school starts.
“We would not want to see the schools open up until they’re really ready and until everyone is trained in the policies and procedures that need to be followed.”