(BIVN) – Governor David Ige held a news conference on Monday to say that the State of Hawaiʻi is moving forward with the reopening of public schools on August 4th.
Governor Ige was joined at the news conference by Hawai‘i State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park, Board of Education Chair Catherine Payne, and Hawai‘i State Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. The State later issued a media joint media release:
Ige cited the state’s decision to push back the pre-travel testing program to Sept. 1 as one of the reasons to move forward with HIDOE’s reopening date, stating, “We do not want to reopen our schools and receive more travelers simultaneously. A phased approach will help ensure a safe return for our students and minimize other factors that could lead to the spread of COVID-19 that we have been able to carefully manage so far.”
“The Department of Health has been working closely with the DOE on ensuring the safe reopening of schools,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “We will continue to work with the DOE in assisting them to ensure their staff are fully informed, response plans are in place, and safe practices and reporting protocols are ready prior to the opening of schools.”
State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said, “The planning process has followed CDC recommendations and DOH guidance on ohana bubbles, masking, and distancing variations by age. These measures will not completely eliminate possible cases, but they will reduce the risk to students and control the spread of illness in schools.”
This year, the Hawaiʻi DOE will screen staff and students and students for these symptoms to help stop COVID-19 from spreading at school:
- feverish or unusually warm (has flushed cheeks)
- sore throat
- shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
- muscle pain/unusual fatigue
- new loss of taste or smell
“The importance of our students’ mental health cannot be lost in this conversation. The Department’s distance learning survey findings made clear that parents have had great concern about their children’s social emotional well-being during these extended school closures,” added BOE Chairperson Catherine Payne. “School closures have caused major disruptions to learning and development, exacerbating pre-existing issues of access and equity. Last school year, our students lost 46 in-person instructional days, and each additional day will only increase the learning gaps for our students.”
UPDATE – (8:50 a.m.) – The Hawaii State Teachers Association says it will hold a virtual news conference today to urge the state to delay the return of public school students to campus. “Given the numerous unanswered questions and teachers scheduled to report to campuses on July 29, the HSTA has no confidence that our school buildings and classrooms are ready for students to open in a manner that minimizes the risk of COVID-19 spreading,” HSTA said.