HIDOE schools expected to resume in-person learning after winter break
December 31, 2021, 10:05 AM HST
* Updated December 31, 3:06 AM
The Hawai‘i State Department of Education is expected to resume in-person learning following winter break, according to an announcement made Wednesday.
HIDOE teachers are scheduled to return from winter break on Jan. 3 and students are scheduled to return on Jan. 4.
“We have been in conversation with the Department of Education and we are working closely with them. We have teams of epidemiologists and what-not working very closely with the schools,” said state Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char during a press briefing on Wednesday.
“I think for the schools, what we’ve done, is we built layer upon layer of mitigation measures and I think the safe thing for the kids in school is that they’re evaluated and they are observed, it’s a structured environment, [and] they’re wearing masks. So I think it’s a pretty safe environment for them as opposed to them just being out in the community without any of those measures in place,” said Dr. Char.
Since Dec. 1, the department has collectively seen a daily average of 19 positive cases across nearly 42,000 staff and 160,000 students, according to department reports.
“The layered approach in HI-DOE schools has been very successful in limiting spread there. We do expect to see more transmission with omicron as we see everywhere,” said Dr. Janet Berreman, Kaua‘i District Health Officer. “But weʻre reasonably confident that the layered approach thatʻs in place, thatʻs proven to be very effective, will continue to be effective in minimizing transmission.”
Dr. Berreman said conversations and decisions in this area are ongoing, and called the situation a “very fluid” one that is changing rapidly.
The HIDOH approach differs from what the University of Hawaiʻi will do when school resumes. The 10 campuses of the University of Hawaiʻi will temporarily move many spring 2022 in-person courses to an online delivery for the first two weeks of the semester because of the current omicron surge of COVID-19 cases in Hawaiʻi, according to an announcement made a day prior.
Governor David Ige said everyone has a part in keeping schools operating and getting children back for in-person learning. “As a parent you have to watch and make sure that your child is not symptomatic. Obviously, if they become symptomatic, then you have to keep them home. We all need to be committed to keeping our schools healthy and safe and we all need to do our part see that happen,” he said.
“We’ve seen the benefits of in-person learning for our students’ social development and academic achievement and while we remain vigilant due to the omicron variant, we have consistent safety measures in place that have proven effective at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our schools,” said interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi in a press release announcement. “Core safety protocols such as getting vaccinated and boosted, masking, social distancing and hand-washing have helped keep our positivity rates lower than the broader community, as well as our counterparts on the mainland.”
Over winter break, HIDOE leadership and school leaders say they have been revisiting contingency plans and preparing for potential situations that may require modifications to in-person instruction.
Current HIDEO guidance encourages the following measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in campus settings:
- Promote vaccinations.
- Conduct daily wellness checks. Anyone feeling sick should stay home.
- Wear masks at all times indoors.
- Practice proper hand hygiene.