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Students being welcomed back on campus at private schools

Maui schools also offer hybrid and online options

Seabury Hall sous chef Mae Sawamura and Kitchen Manager David Villanti reconfigure the dining hall at the Olinda school. — Seabury Hall photo

As the state public school system struggles to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Maui’s private schools are getting ready to open with a mix of limited and phased-in in-person instruction coupled with online learning in the next couple of weeks.

The state Board of Education granted a delay for reopening public schools from Tuesday to Aug. 17 as teachers and staff work on training and safety protocols.

“This school year will be unlike any other in my 30-plus years of education,” said Seabury Hall Head of School Maureen Madden.

The private intermediate and high school will welcome teachers back Monday and its first group of students to campus Aug. 11 for in-person teaching.

Tents will be put up to conduct outdoor classes, the health center has been moved to a central location on campus and dozens of tables have been purchased to allow for social distancing in the dining hall and to eat outdoors.

A morning check-in sign will greet students at Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina when classes begin there Monday. — Sacred Hearts School photo

“We know, for sure, we can provide an exceptional education whatever the educational circumstances,” Madden said. “We can do distance learning, but we are prioritizing in-person learning because we believe that we can provide it safely.”

The school is prepared to switch to distance learning “if the circumstances make it necessary and practical,” she said.

Heads of school and principals of the island’s largest private schools this week expressed similar sentiments and strategies about in-person and online instruction and safety preparations.

At Kamehameha Schools Maui, the island’s largest private school, the new school year begins Aug. 10 and will offer a “hybrid” of on-campus and distance learning instruction.

“We will continue to actively monitor conditions, and our model gives us the flexibility to move in and out of distance learning as needed,” said Scott Parker, the school’s po’o kula or head of school.

The kindergarten-to-grade-12 school will begin with fewer students than normal on campus, “which will provide faculty, staff and students with the necessary space and sufficient time to adjust and adapt to the new routines.”

Each of the school’s three campuses — kindergarten to 5th grade, 6th to 8th grade and 9th to 12th grade — “will consider its respective local conditions and site environments to determine specific measures best suited for its campus reopening plan,” he said.

About 13 percent of Kamehameha Schools Maui students have selected full distance learning this semester, he said.

The school has an enrollment of 1,100 students, according to its website.

Maui Preparatory Academy in Napili is planning to open for in-person classes Aug. 17.

“While the world around us continues to change, our commitment to the health and safety of our students, teachers, staff and families remains steadfast,” said Head of School Miguel Solis. “We will deliver what children need to succeed academically, socially and emotionally. We will ensure students feel welcome and supported in our Maui Prep community.”

Solis has created a Pueo Task Force Team, which will meet regularly to discuss the evolving virus situation. A new curriculum for kindergarten to 5th grade in math and language arts will “seamlessly” transition to home learning if need be.

Currently, the school has 203 students enrolled and anticipates having between 230 and 240 in grades preschool to 12th grade. Enrollment is expected to be up 5 to 10 percent from last year, Solis said.

Because of COVID-19’s economic impacts, Maui Prep has more than doubled its financial assistance budget to assist families, he added.

Tonata Lolesio, principal of Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina, said she felt “confident” about this school year as students head back to class Monday for in-person learning.

“Since distance learning began back in March, we have been working diligently on our Return to School protocol,” she said.

This included having staff recertified in CPR and automated external defibrillator training, reviewing return guidelines and practicing how students will be received in the morning at school.

The school has removed its outdoor water fountains, put in four hand washing stations in its courtyard and replaced bathroom faucets and soap dispensers with sensor touchless equipment.

Class numbers have been capped at lower levels, and desks are spaced according to COVID-19 safety guidelines, she added. The school office has been renovated to be more spacious.

A sign at the school showed the morning check-in routine, which included a photo of a mask and a thermometer.

The school also has an isolation health tent that is easily accessible from the road. The school has the necessary equipment on hand to keep a person safely isolated until removed from campus, Lolesio said.

The school has opened a high school in partnership with Catholic Virtual online school. Students have the option to complete their studies at home or on the campus in the learning center, Lolesio said.

Currently, there are 180 students enrolled in the school’s kindergarten to high school program

About a third of families are receiving financial aid from a regular distribution in spring, but an additional 30 families have been assisted because of two donations totaling $75,000, including from the Koraleski Foundation and a major donor from Maria Lanakila Church who wanted to remain anonymous, Lolesio said.

St. Anthony School in Wailuku will begin its school year Tuesday with in-person teaching for grades kindergarten to 12th grade.

Along with in-person classes, the school is implementing a “school within a school” virtual program at its high school campus, said Head of School Tim Cullen.

Students can take dual-credit classes, high school and college, advanced classes, and elective classes, such as foreign languages, as part of the regular Monday-to-Friday school day. Students will be able to receive support for the classes from on-campus instructors.

The school has already hit its enrollment goal of around 250 students, but the numbers fluctuate, Cullen said.

“Enrollment was set at a lower number than last year to be conservative and cautious but is trending in a positive direction,” Cullen said. He noted that because of the economic consequences of COVID-19 some families moved away from Maui.

Kindergarten-to-5th-grade numbers are reaching capacity, but there is still room in grades 6 to 12, he said.

Tuition assistance is available, but the availability has been impacted by the ongoing economic situation, Cullen said. The Foundation Board and Board of Directors of the school have strategies to address student needs.

At Haleakala Waldorf, high school will begin Aug. 10. The school’s early childhood program and grades 1 to 8 will start Aug. 12.

For safety, the school will have reduced numbers of students on campus and split class cohorts. There also will be distance learning, said Carrie Fidance, community development director at Haleakala Waldorf.

The school has an enrollment of 240 students in its early childhood-to-8th-grade program and 50 students in its high school.

“Our enrollment has fluctuated, but we are pleased to say we have had several new families joining HWS this year. Our Back to School Plan is attracting new families every day,” Fidance said.

Back at Seabury Hall, the school plans to start with face-to-face instruction once a week for two weeks, then five days a week for week three and beyond, Madden said.

Students will begin the school year at different times, depending on grade level. Families were given the option to work with the school to develop a program that will enable their child to receive instruction virtually, if preferred.

“We have different models of individual distance learning for students who may be under quarantine or for families who do not wish to send their kids to school at this time,” Madden said. “Regardless of which method our families choose, in person or virtual, all social-emotional counseling, learning support, and college counseling services will be available.”

Enrollment at the college preparatory school with grades 6 to 12 is “up slightly” from last year, which Madden attributes to its “strong distance learning program last spring.”

“We are at capacity in some grades and have a few seats in others,” she added.

In a normal year, about 25 percent of the school’s students receive financial aid. The need has increased with families who have never received aid making requests for the first time, Madden said.

“We are pleased to have the ability to help them and keep their student enrolled,” she said.

Madden said donors have stepped up to keep the school COVID-19 safe and to implement new safety measures.

“The good news is that even if COVID subsidies, a lot of the changes we have made will allow us to continue to be a safe and healthy campus in the years ahead.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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