Students to transition slowly back to school in the second quarter


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Public schools will gradually move toward blended learning models starting the second quarter according to an announcement by Governor David Ige, Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.

Kishimoto said parents should plan to begin the second quarter via distance learning to minimize disruptions. But she added that the DOE is working toward gradually increasing the number of students on campuses, with priority going to the youngest learners struggling with distance learning issues.

“We will be transitioning slowly back to a blended learning model over the second quarter. We will not be returning to full in-person instruction until after the winter break,” Kishimoto explained.

The second quarter runs from Oct. 12 to Dec. 18.

Kishimoto said the decision of when exactly blended learning modes will take place will be based on metrics and other vital information outlined in a new comprehensive guidance plan.

“The Department of Health’s new metrics are a welcomed tool that will help our schools plan for a safe, strategic, gradual return to blended models on sound data from our health experts. Parameters or thresholds, outlined levels of community transmission that will trigger corresponding recommeded models to assist with decision making.”

DOH Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said metrics are just one part of the plan.

“The metrics are one aspect of the frame work for reopening and are not a hard threshold. They must be taken into consideration with other capacity and resource tools to implement other key mitigation strategies,” Kemble explained.

CDC guidelines are also taken into consideration.

“They include: consistent and correct mask usage, physical distancing to the largest extent possible; clean hands and hygiene and etiquette, cleaning and disinfection and contact tracing. There are checklists included in the guidance to help schools plan around these considerations. That in combination with the thresholds will help schools decide which model of learning is most appropriate at that time,” Kemble said.

The metrics are based off of a two-week rolling count of COVID-positive cases per island, per 10,000 people. This provides a concrete framework to work from.

It also means the metrics for Oahu will be different than Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island.

“We did think it was important to make this an island specific guideline as each island has different patterns of disease transmission,” Kemble said.

The 14-day cumulative case-rate will be updated each Friday at noon on the DOH website.

The DOH metrics outline five levels of community transmission of COVID-19 that would trigger corresponding learning model parameters for schools to consider and to assist with decision making.

Cumulative new case rate per 10,000 population over 14 days by island of residenceConsider Adopting for ElementaryConsider Adopting for Secondary
0 – 5.0In-person learningIn-person learning
5.1 – 15.0In-person learningBlended learning
15.1 – 25.0Blended learningBlended learning
25.1 – 35.0Blended learningLearn from home
35.1 +Learn from homeLearn from home
Source: Hawaii State Department of Health, Learning Model Parameters

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s really an application policy by complex area so that we can start moving some of our students towards blended learning as we’re ready in different parts of a county as large as the county of Honolulu,” Kishimoto said.

That gives each county, and community, the ability to decide the learning mode that suits them best.

“It’s (determined) by complex area in order to make sure that schools that are feeders to one another, who serve the same families and children, are making decisions at the complex area level in collaboration with school principals,” Kishimoto explained.

Kemble said that private schools are also welcome to use the new metrics and guidelines.

“The guidance is for all schools. It’s meant to be general guidance and hence the thresholds here are combined with mitigation strategies. There may be schools that decide to rely more with the containment strategies.”

You can view the full press conference below:

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