HONOLULU (KHON2) — School is less than a week and a half away, and many parents still aren’t sure exactly what to expect. The recent spike in COVID-19 cases is causing some to reevaluate whether they want their child to return to in-person classes.
The 2020 school year began with almost all of Hawaii’s students sitting at a computer, distance learning. Despite a recent surge in cases, most parents said they want kids back in classrooms, but they’re frustrated at the lack of information, communication and transparency so close to the start of the fall semester.
More than 170,000 students will be back to school on Aug. 3, but with COVID-19 cases on the rise, parents are uneasy and want answers.
“I think they should give us more info just to help everyone prepare in case, because cases are going up,” said Kalihi parent Luana Misiafa.
Kaimuki parent Shannon Martinez said she too has concerns.
“I’m not comfortable with the options given, last minute, by the DOE,” she said.
The DOE released distance learning plans Wednesday though their priority is returning kids to full in-person classes.
The Department of Health has not released it’s revised guidelines to parent yet, explaining the delay on “the CDC’s updated K-12 guidance which was just released on July 9.”
However, a school official who wished to remain anonymous told KHON2 that school leaders received a draft of it on Thursday for planning purposes.
Current learning parameters are based off of positivity rates, but the source said the new DOH guidance removes those parameters completely, so learning models would not be based on the transmission of the coronavirus.
That decision falls in line with the CDC’s recent guidelines, which state: “transmission rates within school settings, when multiple prevention strategies are in place, are typically lower than – or similar to – community transmission levels.”
That is little consolation for some parents like Martinez.
“It’s just, it doesn’t work. My family’s at risk,” she said.
She has five kids and had planned on sending them all back to in-person learning, until the surge in cases.
“I was planning on having them all go,” she said. “The ones who could get vaccinated were vaccinated. But my under 10, she’s too young for it. And I live in a multi-generational house as well.”
In a statement, DOH said: “Schools are layering mitigation strategies, including ohana bubbles, screening testing, improving ventilation, physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfection, to maintain healthy operations and environments.”
The new school guidelines are expected to be released by DOH some time between Friday and next Monday.