Staffing shortages impact public schools amid surge in COVID cases

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — According to the Hawaii Department of Education (DOE), the leeward coast continues to see a surge in COVID-19 with 902 cases within since Thursday, Aug. 19. The vaccination rate for the area remains one of the lowest on Oahu at 35%.

Public schools on the west side are starting to feel the impacts.

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“Last week, I know that there was a memo that went out about needing office workers to fill in, like DOE office workers on the Nanakuli and Waianae coast,” said Julie Reyes Oda, a teacher at Nanakuli High and Intermediate School and president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) Leeward Chapter.

As the president of the HSTA Leeward Chapter, Reyes Oda has heard concerns from west side teachers.

“They don’t have counselors to send kids who are acting up in class because counselors are subbing for other classrooms,” she said. “I heard that registrars have also subbed in other classrooms. Also, that teachers have come into work sick because there are no subs, and they’re worried about leaving their classrooms unsupervised.”

Another concern, the testing mandate, might cause teachers to resign. It’s something Waimalu Elementary School is already seeing.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but I have had one part-time employee who has decided not to come back because of the mandates,” said Glen Iwamoto, principal of Waimalu Elementary School.

Reyes Oda says teachers on the leeward coast are searching for answers from the DOE.

“We have to admit that this system that we have is not working,” Reyes Oda said. “So what can we do? Because I can tell you that we do not want to shut schools down. So we need help to figure out what we’re gonna do here.”

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

KHON2 has reached out to the DOE and are waiting for a response.

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