HONOLULU (KHON2) — Members of the teacher’s union, concerned parents, and community members picketed Tuesday afternoon outside the Kapolei State Office building. They’re calling on the Department of Education to address concerns over safety at our schools.

A low vaccination rate in Leeward Oahu has led to more COVID infections. Teachers say they find themselves more at risk each day. They want the state to come up with a plan on how to deal with rising cases due to the delta variant.

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“Everybody’s doing their own thing right now in their own schools,” said Chad Mahoe, a school counselor at Ewa Makai Middle School. “There’s no cohesive plan that’s being put together. So that’s what we want to be, We want to be united as a state.”

HSTA says many of the teachers and school staff in the area are forced to quarantine, and there aren’t enough people to replace them.

“There is not enough staff to staff the cafeteria during meal times,” said Osa Tui, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “Substitute teachers are not available because they don’t want to come in to the classes anymore. So really we are at a breaking point for the department.”

The union filed formal complaints with the state earlier this month. Tui says the union has been trying to get the Department of Education to sit down for a meeting but the state has ignored that request. He says one solution would be for some of the schools to go back to the hybrid model, where half the students would be learning from home.

“It’s definitely an option because you’ll have less during meal times, less during recess, less in the classrooms themselves,” said Tui. “So they could be twice as distanced as they are now.”

He adds that physical distancing is not being followed because there’s just not enough space with 30 or more students in each classroom. There’s no clear policy on who should be quarantined when someone gets infected. He says teachers should have some input on how it’s implemented.

“They’re not even involved on who is going to be quarantined,” sasid Tui. “They’re not even told sometimes which student is determined to be positive for COVID-19. The teachers are having to find out from the parents.”

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DOE sent a statement saying, “Our overall case counts have started to trend downward, which is a testament in part to the hard work of our schools. We need our community to do their part as well and keep our schools safe so that students can continue to benefit from in-person instruction and enjoy the social-emotional benefits of being at school.”