HSTA Has “No Confidence” That Hawai‘i School Buildings are Ready to Open for Students

July 21, 2020, 1:15 PM HST · Updated July 21, 1:15 PM
Wendy Osher · 23 Comments
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The Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association is urging the delay of returning students back to campus.

Corey Rosenlee, HSTA President and Campbell High social studies teacher said, “HSTA has no confidence that our school buildings are ready to open for our students.” The statement was made today during an afternoon press conference streamed online.  (Scroll down to view the press conference in its entirety).

According to Rosenlee, the HSTA and state Department of Education met a month ago to discuss plans to reopen schools. A memorandum of understanding was reached including policies and practices that the union said the two sides agreed should occur before schools begin.

“Since that MOU, we have asked the DOE multiple times for answers to our questions and still haven’t  gotten those answers,” said Rosenlee.

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On Monday, Governor David Ige joined the Hawaiʻi Department of Education in announcing plans to move forward with the Aug. 4 reopening date for public schools.  That plan includes three different models that principals can choose from that include: fully reopen with every student on campus for in-person instruction; come in on a rotating schedule with students doing both distance learning and in-person instruction; or do a full distance learning program.

The HSTA is asking the Board of Education and the state of Hawaiʻi to delay the opening of school buildings to students.  “Our schools need more time to be able to create a health environment for our students and our teachers,” said Rosenlee who outlined a list of questions that he said remain unanswered:

  • When will the state of Hawaiʻi and the state Department of Health provide written guidance on the reopening of school buildings?
  • What options are available to families seeking 100% distance learning options for their children?
  • There are no clear protocols when it comes to face mask use. HSTA believes that face masks must be worn and enforced on campuses.
  • What happens to the students and adults on a school campus if a student, teacher or other school employee, or one of their household members tests positive for COVID-19?
  • What standard practices and other personal protective equipment measures should be followed by employees who need to get within six feet of others–especially students who are medically fragile or very young?
  • How will schools determine that newly enrolled students, especially those from military households, follow 14-days of proper self isolation upon arrival in Hawaiʻi?
  • When a school needs to shut down, due to COVID-19 infection, how will schools move to a 100% distance learning environment; and when will teachers be trained?

ʻOhana Bubble Concerns:

In addressing the ʻohana bubble concept outlined by the Department of Health, Rosenlee said, “I can tell you from the teachers who have listened to this, this is divorce from reality.  At the secondary level, we have hundreds of kids that are going to be changing classes and teachers will be exposed to hundreds of students.  I will tell you as a teacher, before school, at lunch, after school, these kids will be taking off their masks, they’ll be in close proximity with each other, and then we’re going to put them in a confined area with teachers for long periods during the day.”

“And for our young students, even for those who may be in one class for the day, their ʻohana bubble is (1) waiting for the bus, (2) when they get on the bus, (3) when they get to school and start playing around with their friends, (4) when they’re in the school, (5) when they go in the bathroom… in their A+ program, and they go back to family and their families weekends– and by the end of the day they’ve been exposed to many people and they’re bringing this into the classroom,” said Rosenlee.

  • The HSTA urged the state to “take its time and get things right.”

The Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association is the exclusive representative of 13,700 public school teachers statewide. HSTA represents and supports teachers in collective bargaining, as well as with legislative and professional development issues.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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