HONOLULU(KHON2) — Starting Aug. 3, over 170,000 students will go back to school, but what that will look like is unclear. The Department of Education and Department of Health said plans are in the works but they’re vague on the details.
Both DOE and DOH said they are focused on providing full in person classes this school year, but with less than two weeks to go, lack of a clear plan has many frustrated.
It’s crunch time and many teachers and parents haven’t been given any direction for the fall semester.
Kalani High School teacher Brooke Nasser said teachers are “totally in the dark.”
“What’s frustrating as a teacher is that we’re now two weeks away from the start of the school year, the new school year, and yet it feels very similar to how I felt last year,” Nasser said. “Last year, there were reasonable explanations for everything. We were four months into a pandemic, everything was brand new. No one really had any understanding of how long it was going to last, what was really even happening. So there was a lack of planning and organization and transparency. But all of those things made sense. All of those challenges. were reasonable, considering the situation where we were in. I think everyone expected to not be in that situation again, at the start of the 2021 school year, and yet, it feels very similar.”
Parent John VonTungeln said he understands DOE is in a tough spot but he thinks they should have had something ready by now.
“A lot of parents need to use the DOE’s plan in order to plan for our own lives, whether it be work or whatever other activities we’re doing,” VonTungeln said. “If we know that kids will be on campus, then we can maybe go into the office ourselves. Whereas, if kids are going to be at home, then we may need to make arrangements at home to be there to supervise them. A lot of parent-planning hinges upon the DOE having a plan.”
He said lack of a concrete plan gives him little confidence in the DOE.
Teachers are also in limbo, unsure of how to plan their curriculum.
“I have to be back on campus next Wednesday,” she explained. “That’s teachers first day for public schools in Hawaii. I know what classes I’m going to be teaching. But that’s about it. Teachers are feeling like we have to scramble and put something together hastily at the last minute.”
Governor David Ige said he’s unable to give a definitive answer about schools resuming in-person classes or distance learning.
DOH is also supposed to release new learning model parameters.
According to current DOH guidelines, the recent surge in cases would require every school on Kauai, and secondary schools across the state, to follow the blended learning model.
Those parameters are changing.
“There’s been a lot of work going on between DOH and DOE,” Kauai District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said. ‘Actually, we were close to releasing updated guidelines, and then the CDC updated their guidelines. So we had to go back and re-update the guidelines. But, they’ll be out very soon. “
Berreman said they are focused on providing full in person classes.
“We’ve really made a tremendous amounts of progress on vaccination,” she explained. “Vaccinating not only teachers and staff in our schools, but students who are 12 years of age and older. So that really adds to the layered approach to preventing disease spread in the school.”
“Then like the CDC guidance, the guidance that we’re working on with DOE will include layering other levels of protection to including masking, especially while indoors, ventilation, hand washing, staying home when you’re sick,” said Berreman. “Distancing where it’s possible. All of those things that we know help. “
DOE said they will release their plan for distance learning Wednesday, July 21.