DOE Unveils Return to Learn Plan for Hawai‘i Public Schools
The Hawai‘i State Department of Education today unveiled its Return to Learn: School Reopening Plan that public schools are using to prepare for the “safe and healthy” return of students and staff during the upcoming 2020-21 school year.
“As we move forward in our commitment to reopen schools on Aug. 4 for the fall semester, we know that the delivery of instruction in Hawai‘i, across the nation and globally is going to look very different,” Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said in a press release announcement.
“Our HIDOE ʻohana has been diligently working on plans for the new school year, growing from our experience navigating a global pandemic and applying lessons learned toward our commitment to high-quality learning and equity of access.”
Department officials say they are committed to maintaining the standard 180 instructional days in the new school year “while providing learning models that are developmentally appropriate to the needs of learners, adhere to health and safety guidelines, and consider the impact of COVID-19 in communities.”
As part of the reopening plan, HIDOE school leaders have created elementary, middle/intermediate, and high school models for reopening in the fall. Schools will be informing families about their selected models.
In general, models include face-to-face learning, where all students are on campus daily for instruction, and various blended learning models, where a combination of in-person learning and structured online distance learning is provided. Priority for daily face-to-face learning will be given to K-2 students and vulnerable students. The approaches support social distancing while ensuring academic rigor. See here for more information.
All schools are preparing for the possibility of future school closures by increasing device accessibility to students, building teacher capacity for virtual engagement, and expanding course offerings for credits toward graduation. The Department recognizes there may be situations when parents may prefer virtual-only learning. The Department’s E-School stands ready to provide courses for students in grades 6-12. The Department is exploring a K-5 virtual solution. Working with their home school, once a parent selects a virtual-only option, the parent commits to the program for the length specified in order to earn the credit or grade.
The Department worked closely with public health officials to develop guidelines around health and safety measures as part of the reopening plan. In consultation with labor unions representing school staff and using recommendations from the Hawai’i State Department of Health, the Department created baseline guidance for schools that include:
- Cohorts: For on-campus learning, the same group of students should be kept with the same staff throughout the day; all day for younger students and as much as possible for older students.
- Physical distancing: A distance of 6 feet between students and staff members should be maintained whenever possible.
- Face coverings: Face coverings should be worn by employees, students and visitors, especially when physical distancing is difficult or impossible.
- Meals: Individually plated meals are to be consumed in classrooms or at designated outdoor locations, or distancing precautions must be instituted in cafeterias.
- Ventilation: Windows should be opened for greater natural air circulation when possible.
- Monitoring health: Employees, students and visitors should be screened for overt signs of illness in a safe and respectful manner.
- Hygiene: Adequate cleaning supplies, including soap, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer will be made available to schools and offices.
- Sanitation: Campuses, classrooms and offices will be cleaned and disinfected on a routine and frequent basis. High-touch surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected at least daily.
- School buses: Students, drivers and anyone else riding the bus should wear face coverings, and physical distance should be maintained between children on buses.
Return to Learn Plan
The Return to Learn reopening plan articulates the scope of work required to respond to health and safety issues while implementing the Hawaii State Board of Education’s call to action for school communities “to give hope, act with kindness and work toward togetherness” in preparing for the reopening of schools. It’s scheduled to be presented at the Board’s July 9 meeting.
The plan is centered around seven topic areas to help guide decision-making: health and safety, school design, equity and access, operations, staff capacity, family and community, and contingency planning. School-level tools accompanying the plan include a Principal Handbook and Health and Safety Handbook.
As the situation evolves and as new guidance becomes available, the Department will adjust as necessary to uphold its commitment to providing a safe learning and working environment.