Nearly all Hawaii public schools headed for online classes, announcement comes hours after HSTA slams DOE for not reporting COVID-19 cases on campus to public

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Public schools statewide shift to online classes just days before school begins. The announcement from the Department of Education (DOE) comes just hours after criticism from the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) about lack of transparency in reporting recent cases of COVID-19 on school campuses.

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All of Hawaii’s public schools will move to distance learning for the first four weeks of school, with the exception of Hana High on Maui and schools on Molokai and Lanai, according to Superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

“Kauai and Hawaii island are following the same three-phased plan as Oahu schools. Maui county schools will have a similar plan. There are some differences for the Hana, Lanai, Molokai complex areas,” Kishimoto explained.

The announcement comes after criticism by HSTA President Corey Rosenlee over new cases of COVID-19 in schools.

“The Department of Education has shown that it is not transparent and the Department of Health has shown it is not prepared,” said Rosenlee.

Rosenlee wants to know why vital information about recent COVID-19 cases on school campuses hasn’t been made public.

“Over the last few days, teachers across the state have contacted HSTA to report confirmed COVID-19 cases,” Rosenlee explained.

Rosenlee said he’s upset the DOE didn’t inform any of the parents.

“As a parent of a senior of Campbell High where one of the cases was reported, I am angry that the DOE has not notified me and other parents just a week before my daughter and other classmates are supposed to return to campus. Parents have the right to know if the school has been affected and if it’s safe.”

In fact, he said there have been at least nine new cases of COVID-19 in the last 11 days.

According to Rosenlee, since July 31, four cases were reported at:

Iliahi Elementaary
Kaala Elementary
Leilehua High School
Waialae Public Charter School

Since August 6, more positive cases were reported at:

Campbell High School
Hilo Intermediate
Kapolei Middle School
Moanalua High School

The DOE released a list of complex areas with reported cases that did not include Hawaii island or Moanalua Elementary. Kishimoto said they only count DOE employees, not family members.

“We’ve had a total of 13 cases statewide since the start of the summer or end of last quarter. There were 12 cases on Oahu and one on Kauai,” Kishimoto said.

While Kishimoto said the DOE has protocols in place regarding notifying those who may have been exposed and the school administration, she said the DOE will not release information to the public about every case.

“I am not looking to release information on every case. The ownership and responsibility on cases is with the Department of Health (DOH), so I’m not taking that on myself,” Kishimoto said.

Rosenlee said he also has questions regarding the ability of the DOH to contact trace.

Campbell High School teacher Anthony McCurdy is currently in quarantine because he may have been exposed to COVID-19 by another staff member. While McCurdy said he is relieved his test came out negative, he has other concerns.

“While my administration acted quickly and with compassion, I still haven’t heard from the DOH at all,” McCurdy said.

Rosenlee said that if the DOH can’t keep up with contact tracing now, he is wondering how the DOH staff will manage when 180,000 students return to school and more outbreaks happen.

“With cases spiking in Hawaii and DOH contact tracers seemingly overwhelmed, it is not the time to bring kids back to classrooms.”

Rosenlee wants the state to begin full distance learning Monday and avoid the four days on in-person instruction the DOE currently has planned.

“It would be much safer to have students pick up instruction packets in drop off areas with their parents,” Rosenlee said. “Private schools are going virtual without students going to campuses and our public school students and teachers deserve the same.”

Students and families can utilize the ‘Ohana Help Desk for additional assistance.

Here is an island-by-island breakdown of the DOE’s current plan:

Kauai:

  • All Kauai schools will implement 100% distance learning for at least the first four weeks of school.

Hawaii Island:

  • All schools in the Hilo-Waiakea, Kau-Keeau-Pahoa, and Honoka’a-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Areas will implement 100% distance learning for at least the first four weeks of school.

Maui County:

  • All schools in the Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui Complex Area will implement 100% distance learning for at least the first four weeks of school.
  • Lanai High and Elementary and schools in the Lahaina Complex will implement 100% distance learning for the first quarter of school.
  • Schools on Moloka‘i will implement face-to-face and blended learning as previously announced for the first quarter.
  • Hāna High and Elementary School will implement face-to-face learning for grades K-5 and a hybrid model for upper grades. 

All schools on Kaua‘i, Hawaii and Maui County will follow the three-phase plan for distance learning below, with the exception of Moloka‘i schools and Hāna High & Elementary.

First phase, in-person training (Aug. 17-20)

During the first week of school, students will physically return to campus on a coordinated and scheduled basis, determined by each individual school, to connect with their teacher, receive training on the distance learning platforms, and address issues with connectivity and access to technology. Special considerations will be given to vulnerable students and their families for more in-person access to the school and teachers.

Starting on Aug. 17, School cafeterias will be serving only grab-and-go meals for their enrolled students; in-person dining will not be allowed. After-school programs will be suspended until students return to in-person blended learning models. 

Second phase, ready to learn (Aug. 24-Sept. 11) 

For the remainder of the four week period, full distance learning will be implemented. Staff will report to their designated work sites for continued distance learning instruction. Special education services that cannot be provided in a distance learning format will be available in person. Supervised in-person learning labs at schools will be available for students who do not have WiFi access.

Third phase, transition to blended learning or continue distance learning (Sept. 14) 

HIDOE will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with the Governor’s Office and the Hawai‘i State Department of Health to assess whether or not students can safely return to in-person blended learning models. If distance learning will continue for the remainder of the first quarter of school, an announcement will be made on Sept. 8 by each complex area superintendent.

HIDOE COVID-19 case count by Complex Area:

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