Thousands of public school students return to full in-person classes, raising concerns with some teachers

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Thousands of public school students returned to the classroom on Tuesday. School officials said safety mitigation is in place for the new school year amid a concerning rise in coronavirus cases.

Aug. 3 was the first day of Fall classes with students back on campus. It was a long awaited moment for parents like Arjun Aryal, a father of a second-grade student.

“I’ve been to school before, and I saw how they are preparing and stuff, and it looks like they are well prepared and I feel quite safe,” Aryal said.

The Hawaii State Department of Health released a more than 20-page document with safety protocols for schools to follow. Some of the requirements include masks for indoor settings, as well as physically distancing students at least three feet apart.

However, Maui High School Teacher of Arts and Communication Lisa Morrison said she still has concerns about the virus.

Morrison said, “I really encourage anyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so, and I am more concerned for my colleagues who work in middle school and elementary school because that’s just not available.”

The Department of Education (DOE) is not keeping track of the number of students who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. It will only ask students about vaccination status if they are involved in a close contact situation.

A DOE spokesperson said the majority of students returned to in-person learning at one of the state’s largest school complexes — Kaimuki, McKinley and Roosevelt — which has around 17,000 students. The DOE said only 3% opted to stick with distance learning.

For Morrision, the number of students on campus does make it an obstacle when trying to maintain physical distance between students.

“It’s not really possible to social distance,” she said. “We still have 30 in a classroom, and the classrooms are the same size that they were before COVID.”

Still, Morrison noticed the high school students wearing their masks and trying to maintain social distancing whenever possible.

“There’s social distancing in the cafeteria, and the school tried to make more tables available outside so that students could eat outdoors which is safer,” Morrison said. “But I think the main concern would be the waiting in line.” 

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