HONOLULU(KHON2) — Students are falling behind in English, math and science according to data shared by the Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi.

“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has negatively impacted student engagement and student learning,” Hayashi said.

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Tiffany Foyle, who has a son in elementary school, said she’s noticed the decline.

“He’s definitely experience learning loss,” said Foyle. “But because we live in a small community, we ended up doing little pods to try to help them distance learn together. What I noticed in a lot of the kids that I was around was that their reading skills were not just not up to bar, but they were slipping.”

According to Hayashi, since 2019 proficiency in English dropped 4%, math 11% and science 9%.

He said the DOE is planning on utilizing tutoring, summer learning, enrichment programs and after school programs as strategies to re-engage students.

Osa Tui, Jr. the Hawaii State Teacher’s Association president said the continuing staffing issues and absenteeism are making it worse.

Last week, The DOE reported substitute teacher job requests ranged from 1,700 to more than 2,100 every day.

“When you have a class where the students half of them are showing up, half of them are not, you’re missing half the class,” Tsui said. “There  is no instruction that’s really able to go on. If you have to repeat the lessons or if the student is sitting in the cafeteria, the auditorium, the gymnasium, there’s absolutely no learning going on.”

Teacher shortages aren’t the only issue.

According to Rep. Jeanne Kapela (D), an uptick in bus driver absenteeism on the Big Island is adding to the problem.
“Bus transportation on the west side of Hawaii island for basically every single school on the west side: Konawaena, Holualoa, all three Kealakehe schools, Konaweana Elementary, have been cancelled,” Kapela said. “So all bus transportation on west side of Hawaii island has been cancelled for (Tuesday), possibly all the way thorough next week. We also can’t prioritize in person learning if we can’t get students too school.”

Assistant Superintendent Randal Tanaka said they were already facing a shortage of bus drivers due to the pandemic. He said nearly 100 left the job when schools shut down in 2020 to find other work.

The omicron variant is making it worse.
“Just last week we lost another eight drivers they’re out sick,” Tanaka explained. “Four on the Kona side, and four on the Hilo side. It’s not an equipment shortage. It’s a driver shortage.”

“We continue to work and persevere shoring that up finding other alternatives,” he said. “We’re taking a hard look at this bell schedule. We think that will help but that requires consultation with the union consultations with schools’ schedules.”

Tanaka said the problem will likely persist for a little while longer as they trouble shoot.

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On Kauai, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle transitioned to distance learning due to a shortage of cafeteria works. The DOE said they are scheduled to resume in person learning next Tuesday.