Waialua principal in hot seat after 80 students gather for assembly

Coronavirus

WAIALUA, Hawaii (KHON2) — The principal at Waialua High and Intermediate School is in the hot seat after holding an assembly this week with 79 students present.

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The event was held one day after the Hawaii Department of Education canceled all in-person gatherings of 20 or more people.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association was informed about the event late Thursday evening.

“The teachers were definitely concerned, they reached out to HSTA, and we’re trying to advocate that our schools should be distance learning,” explained HSTA president Corey Rosenlee. “But when we heard about this event, I think the teachers and I think the public are just concerned that this could be a super spreader event.”

The principal sent this letter out to parents this morning:

Dear Bulldog Parents,

It is unfortunate that I must write this letter, as recently, there has been some negative publicity cast upon our school by the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA). I want to assure you that your children are safe on our campus, and I take their well-being very seriously. Each child that attends Waialua High and Intermediate School is near and dear to my heart, and at no time would I ever put them in a dangerous situation or create harm for them.

We did, in fact, hold an assembly this past Tuesday. The purpose was to welcome back our Intermediate students (Red Cohort only) and to share with them some of the new COVID-19 policies we put in place for the second semester. Our intention was to ensure the message was delivered to our students consistently and provide them with a little motivation moving forward (we showed a short social-emotional (SEL) video).  Here are the details:

  • There were 79 students and only their teachers present.
  • Individual classes entered the gym one at a time.
  • Each grade level (39 and 40 students, respectively) sat on opposite sides of the gym.
  • Students sat 6 feet apart in all directions.
  • Everyone wore masks at all times.
  • All windows and doors remained open, and the overhead fans were circulating.

It saddens me that our school has come under such scrutiny, especially at a time in which we are all facing many challenges. I want you to know how very proud I am to serve as your principal, and I ask you, our Bulldog Ohana, not to let outside influences deter us from our goals…please continue to support Waialua High and Intermediate School’s vision and mission.

Sincerely,

Christine Alexander, Principal

“She’s basically admitting to having this assembly, and, again, why is she going against the Department of Education’s own memo basically saying you shouldn’t be having these large gatherings?” Rosenlee said.

“Then what happened on Wednesday is the Department of Health came out with their metrics, basically saying that secondary schools on Oahu they’re recommending should be going to distance learning,” he said.

Rosenlee said HSTA has been advocating for a clear statewide policy and it shouldn’t be left to principals to decide what’s safe for each individual school. He said every school should be following DOH metrics.

“I know teachers want to be back in the classroom. The concern that we have is we’re almost there, vaccinations are coming out. Our teachers are getting vaccinated. We’re just asking for everyone to be patient a little bit longer, until we can bring down the numbers and make sure it’s safe for everyone,” he continued.

He said many secondary schools on Oahu are going back to distance learning next week while Waialua High School and Intermediate is bringing more students back on campus.

“And the first thing they’re doing for these students is putting them into an enclosed building with a whole bunch of them together. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

“I know that this principal wants to do what’s best for the kids, but right now the best thing is to make sure that we’re not exposing them to this, this Coronavirus,” he concluded.

Several parents and a school council member said students felt safe during the assembly, most parents only hearing about the event two days later.

“It was a very safe environment, it was not a pep rally,” explained school council member Racquel Achiu-Hill.  “It wasn’t a big party occasion where the kids were freely wandering the area, it was very well managed.”

Other parents believed it was reckless and noted the DOH’s COVID-19 map which shows new cases popping up across North Shore.

“The guidelines are there for a reason. As much as we all don’t like this is the new norm we need to follow it we want it gone. We need to follow it in order for it to be gone so we can get back to some kind of normalcy,” one parent said.

The parent said the principal could have shared the message to all students by sending out a video message or going classroom to classroom.

The Department of Education confirmed the principal had another assembly on Friday.

“It’s just so frustrating. It’s really, really frustrating that you’re in a position to be there for the children, teach the kids education, educate the children, and provide them a safe and healthy environment and you are basically putting them in a predicament where their health could be at risk,” the parent said.

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