Hawaiʻi School Board Votes to Approve Delayed Start of School by Two Weeks

July 30, 2020, 6:08 PM HST · Updated July 31, 6:11 AM
Wendy Osher · 41 Comments
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The Hawaiʻi Board of Education on Thursday voted to postpone the start of the school year by two weeks to Aug. 17, 2020.

The Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association wanted the delay as they sought assurances that health and safety preparedness concerns relating to COVID-19 and the protection of teachers, staff and students were addressed. The HSTA joined the Hawaiʻi Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers union in urging the state and the BOE to delay the start of school for students.

Meantime, Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said the proposal would accommodate concerns regarding employee training.

The decision comes a day after teachers returned to school for training and preparation. The additional training days will include HIDOE-mandated training topics on health and safety, and instructional and student support.

“This issue has divided our community amid these uncertain times. There are no perfect answers. We acknowledge this move effectively delays student instruction, and we are fully committed to preparing our schools to safely welcome students back on Aug. 17,” Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said. “I thank our families for their understanding as well as our principals for their tremendous work in coordinating the readiness of their schools.”

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During the marathon meeting on Thursday (which adjourned just before 8 p.m.), the Board also postponed action on a motion that sought to “grant a general waiver for all applicable public schools from the requirements of section 302A-251 HRS to allow all public schools to implement a school year with no fewer than 171 student instructional days that shall include no fewer than 1,026 student hours.”

Hawaiʻi law requires 180 instructional days and 1,080 student hours.  A delayed start of the school year to Aug. 17 would effectively reduce that number by nine to 171 days and result in 54 less student hours to 1,026 hours.

There were concerns raised that a reduction in school days and instructional time would impact student learning.  The DOE plans to resume negotiations with unions and the board will revisit the matter at a later date.

The board also identified three expectations for the Department of education including guidelines on the use of face masks.  The board staff will identify future potential meeting dates should further developments occur that require board review or action, since the next scheduled board meeting isn’t until Aug. 20, after students are scheduled to start.

The discussion comes amid record breaking daily COVID-19 case counts in Hawaiʻi. Hawaiʻi recorded another triple-digit record breaking day for new COVID-19 infections with a total of 124 new cases in the state on Thursday.  Thursday’s cases included: 121 new cases on Oʻahu and four new cases in Maui County.
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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