State committed to reopening schools Aug. 4

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Schools are finalizing plans and adjusting classrooms to welcome back students on Aug. 4.

When students head back to class, it will be unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.

Despite, continued COVID-19 cases in Hawaii and around the world, the state said it’s committed to reopening schools on Aug. 4, either entirely face-to-face with 6-foot distancing in classrooms, entirely online, or a combination of both.

Governor Ige said, no matter which model a school chooses, it’s up to the community to keep everyone safe.

“I’ve been there, I have three children, ‘oh yes they’re starting to catch a cold, but we’ll take to them to school anyway,’ that has to change,” he said in a press conference on Monday. “We all need to be personally responsible for what happens and sending our children to school when they’re sick just does not work anymore. Employers have to be willing to work with parents.”

Students will be kept in “bubbles” to avoid mingling with other students and high touch areas throughout campus will be cleaned on a regular basis.

McKinley High School’s principal said this upcoming school year will be a learning curve unlike any other.

Ron Okamura, McKinley High School Principal, said there are about 1,600 students who attend the school. This year, he decided to go with a blended rotation by separating the school into four groups; A, B, C and D groups.

“So, looking at any given day, about 400 students will be on campus at a given time,” he said. “That should be enough to accommodate everyone in our class rooms with the 6-foot distancing.”

Students will be on campus one day a week face-to-face learning, and each classroom will have on average about 15 students.

When they’re not at school, they’ll be virtual learning. “Friday’s will be strictly office hours, with the exception of special education and ELL students who will be at school every single day,” Okamura explained.

He said schedules will be different as well. “One week it’s just going to be our odd classes so 1,3,5,7 and the following week will be even classes 2,4,6,” he explained.

School desks will also be color coded so, for example, students in Group A will sit at certain desks opposed to students who are in Group B. “they’ll be a different color so they’re not using all the desks at the same time,” he said.

He said if it comes to the point where restrictions are eased, or if a vaccine is created, the school would have the ability to go from four groups down to two groups.  “So, they can alternate every other day so it will be a little more face-to-face rather than virtual learning,” he said.

“We have a bunch of parents calling in already and they’re not comfortable having their kids come back to school, and we understand that, and so we’re making that opportunity for them as well to go 100% virtual learning,” he said.

He said all students will be required to wear a mask on campus and each student will be provided their own McKinley mask as well.

The school will also require students to wear their new color-coded student ID’s. “So, we know from the get-go who is supposed to be on campus that day and who’s not supposed to be there,” Okamura said.

As for school lunches, he said those who are off-campus will be allowed to grab their lunch on campus, but it’s only grab-and-go. Students will not be allowed to hang out and eat with friends.  

“It’s a whole lot different from how we normally operate,” he said.

“Every day I learn something new and this coming year and the end of the past school year has been a very big learning curve even for me,” the principal said who has been a school administrator for 30 years. “So, to figure out how to do things, simple things like lunch, before that was a no-brainer right? Recess, how do we keep everyone safe? It’s been a huge learning curve and it’s hard for me to even get my hands around it even with the years of experience I have I can only imagine what’s going through the other principals’ minds, and teachers, how do we deal with this?”

He said he told his teachers there were two things they’re going to have to be this year: flexible and patient.

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