HONOLULU (KHON2) — Even with the growing number of COVID cases, Hawaii’s Department of Education (DOE) continues to focus on in-person learning, but it has not been easy for schools to keep students in the classroom.

On Wednesday, Jan. 12, Sunset Beach Elementary School was shut down for full-distance learning after more than half of the school’s students were absent earlier in the week.

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“I just want to thank our parents and community for supporting this decision. And for, you know, going through this together with us. It’s been a tough couple of years and the only way we’re going to get through is if we work together,” said Eliza Elkington, principal of Sunset Beach Elementary School.

Principal Elkington said she was forced to shut down eight of the 20 classrooms at the school during the week of Jan. 10, and distance learning was the best way to ensure all the kids were being taught.

“It’s a great idea because all the kids that were being quarantined or having been in close contact were having to stay home and they weren’t getting any learning down,” explained a parent.

However, parents who work full-time said it is not that simple.

“How are we supposed to figure this out on less than 24 hours’ notice without physically having to call in sick to work to take care of our children who are especially elementary.”

Kyle Foyle, a parent

“People that got their kid vaccinated did their job right. We did our part, and now we have to suffer,” said Kyle Foyle, a parent.

Sunset Beach Elementary School is offering free PCR COVID-19 testing Thursday morning for students and parents, and they will return to in-person learning on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

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The DOE said it is working with the Department of Health to expand federally funded coronavirus testing and that rapid testing is being done through Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19 in Nanakuli, Waianae, Honokaa and Kohala.