Mid-Pacific Institute previews back-to-school experience for students

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — While distance learning has been extended for public schools, some private schools are gearing up to get kids back in the classroom.

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Mid-Pacific Institute will be welcoming students back to the classroom starting with pre-school students on Oct. 5. The school said it set up precautions to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t spread on campus.

Besides wearing a mask, one of the things the school hopes students will maintain is a social distance of at least six-feet. The school placed arrows and markings on the ground throughout campus to remind students of that rule. Some staircases at the school even have arrows indicating students and faculty can only walk one way.

“There will be times in which students perhaps are not able to keep the full six-foot distance, so we at least wanted to be able to ensure that they were not running into each other face to face,” said Leigh Fitzgerald, who is Mid-Pacific’s Vice President of Academic Affairs.

The social distancing rules also extend into the classroom.

“In a non-COVID year, the tables would be pushed together and the students would be working collaboratively in groups of 6 most likely facing one another,” said Fitzgerald.

Now, there are chairs set up at either end of the tables with large spaces between desks, not only for students to do their work but also to eat lunch.

“Lunch will be delivered to the classroom. [Students] will eat, not with a mask on, but with their [face shield], So all students will eat under a shield at lunch as would the teacher or the proctor,” said Fitzgerald.

A part of Mid-Pacific Institute’s cafeteria will be used for food preparation, but the rest of it will be turned into additional classroom space. Since classes have had to become smaller to accommodate for social distancing requirements, spaces around the school have been transformed.

However, some students have the option to continue distance learning rather than to be physically in the classroom. Fitzgerald said teachers will have a device open with the Zoom application so students at home can also learn along with the physical class.

Another big change is that kids will no longer be able to walk around freely if they are dropped off early or are waiting to get picked up. They will have to go to a designated study area, so teachers can ensure they are social distancing.

If a student or staff member develops COVID-like symptoms, they will be sent to a quarantine tent set up outside of the health office. Fitzgerald said this was a requirement by the Hawaii Department of Health.

“In the event that you have a student or a faculty or staff member who over the course of the day begins to exhibit symptoms … because of course, we have to be careful in separating them from a student who’s going to the nurse’s office for a scrape or a bruise,” said Fitzgerald. “Students are able to go and check-in with a nursing assistant in full PPE, of course, who is able to check in on the student on their symptoms and call a parent or guardian to come pick the student up.”

She said if a COVID-19 case is found, all teachers and students that the person had contact with would have to quarantine for at least 14-days, but that does not mean the learning stops.

“We would flip to virtual learning for that class over those [quarantine] days, assuming [students are] healthy and able to participate,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said Mid-Pacific Institute plans to get all students back on campus by Nov. 5.

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