HONOLULU (KHON2) — Distance learning, a product of the COVID pandemic, is still being utilized. Molokai Middle School returned to online classes this week due to a spike in COVID cases.

The Department of Education said it’ll offer distance learning next school year, but is encouraging in-person learning.

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“When students are in-person, in school getting the support that they need I think it is definitely a benefit that can’t be replaced if students are on distance learning,” said DOE Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi

The teacher’s union said the DOE listed about 50 distance learning positions in February, but there’s uncertainty about what those openings will entail.

Meanwhile, summer school is quickly approaching and several public high schools are offering distance learning courses, citing the need for an online option in case of any spikes in COVID. Those schools include Aiea, Mililani, Kaimuki, Kapaa and Radford.

“Having all the kids in the class and the time period that summer school is conducted, we don’t want kids missing more than three days of summer school if they have to quarantine,” said James Sunday, Radford High School principal.

At the Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School, the Pineapple Academy will also return. It’s a distance learning hub for the Mililani, Leilehua and Waialua complex. Next school year, students from kindergarten to fifth grade can register.

“We have stable enrollment for next year and the families that are in it want to continue or are undecided at this time,” said Rachel Armstrong, Daniel K. Inouye Elementary vice-principal. “So I’m looking forward to new families entering as well as continuing on with our current families.”

Keiki advocates are pushing officials to look into distance learning as a permanent option.

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“With students who are looking at maybe long commutes or other challenges at home, I think having that ability to learn more at their own pace, but with the support of mentors and coaches and teachers,” said David Miyashiro, HawaiiKidsCAN executive director. “We are only now seeing kind of the beginning of where all of this can go in terms of innovation.”