(BIVN) – With Hawaiʻi students set to return to school in about a week, the Hawaii State Teachers Association says it now wants schools to go to 100% distance learning for the first quartet of the new year, as new cases of COVID-19 rise on Oʻahu.
The HSTA held a virtual news conference on Friday, to explain their position in opposition to the return of students to campus for the beginning of 2020–21 school year. HSTA President Corey Rosenlee and HSTA Vice President Osa Tui Jr., read statements and took questions from media. Rosenlee said:
In the last few days, we have seen the growing number of coronavirus cases in Hawaiʻi, with Hawaiʻi having the second highest growth rate in the country.
During this time, the public and teachers have watched with astonishment while Hawaiʻi is shutting down, and Oʻahu is closing its beaches and bowling alleys, there is still a push to open our schools to face-to-face learning.
Hawaiʻi can no longer pretend we are not in the middle of a pandemic, and that somehow are keiki and our teachers are impervious this virus.
As a result of the situation, last night the HSTA Board of Directors voted unanimously to support Hawaiʻi’s public schools going to 100% distance learning, starting August 17th and continuing until the end of the first quarter, or until such time that public schools are safe for students, teachers, and staff be together on campuses.
HSTA also calls on the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health to provide clear written guidance regarding the rate of positive coronavirus tests, community spread, and metrics to determine the ability of schools to resume in-person instruction in a safe manner.
For weeks, HSTA has asked the State to provide specific triggers when it would be safe to open schools, and conversely, when school buildings, campuses, or the entire system should close.
So far, the state has not provided parents, students, and employees with those critical plans that many states and cities across the country have long had in place.
HSTA is asking Governor Ige, Superintendent Kishimoto, the Board of Education, and the Department of Health to take immediate action to protect the lives and safety and health of our keiki, our teachers, our school staff, and our community.
The HSTA would like to see the distance learning go into effect for all Hawaiʻi schools on all islands.
UPDATE (11:30 a.m.) – Governor David Ige issued an advisory at 11:30 am.m HST Friday, saying that he and DOE Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto are holding a news conference at 2:30 p.m. regardg “Oʻahu public school plans”.
On Friday, the State of Hawaiʻi announced 201 newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases, with all but one on Oʻahu. There were also two newly announced COVID-related deaths. In a news release, Health Director Bruce Anderson said, “Unfortunately, projections for increases in COVID case and ICU bed utilization are being realized.” The State says many of the Intensive Care Units on O‘ahu are full or close to full and hospitals are surging, transferring patients, and opening new units to handle new patients.
The State says ICU bed use has not changed significantly to date on the Neighbor Islands, where new COVID-19 cases have not increased like they have on Oʻahu.