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Schools to blend learning under new guidance

Remote learning to be combined with in-person classes in 2nd quarter

The Associated Press

HONOLULU — State Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said Thursday that the state’s public schools would start combining in-person and remote learning instruction during the second quarter that starts next month, but the teachers union vowed to fight the plan.

Most schools in the state have been teaching students through distance learning since the start of the school year in August in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Schools will begin the shift while following new guidelines issued by the state Department of Health, Kishimoto said. The second quarter of the school year starts on Oct. 12 and runs through Dec. 18.

The guidelines suggest schools adopt in-person instruction or learning from home depending on the number of positive COVID-19 cases on each island over a 14-day period. It provides five numeric thresholds that would trigger a reevaluation.

For example, in-person learning for elementary and intermediate/high schools could be possible if new cases per 10,000 population by island for two weeks is 0 to five cases, a news release from the DOE said. A total of 15.1 to 25 new cases would mean blended distance and in-person learning could occur. Distance learning would remain in place for 35.1 new cases and higher.

The spread of the virus varies by island, so the department will determine what approach to take based on the conditions in each community. Decisions will be made at the complex area level (groups of high schools and their feeder intermediate and elementary schools).

Maui County has two complex areas — Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui and Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanai-Molokai.

For planning purposes and to minimize disruption, the DOE said parents should anticipate the second quarter will begin as a continuation of learning from home with schools planning for a gradual rollout of blended learning opportunities and continuing to monitor COVID-19 case activity in their communities.

As decisions are made, schools will communicate with families, the DOE said.

“The safety of our students, teachers, staff and leaders remains our highest priority,” Kishimoto said. “We appreciate having benchmarks that will allow our schools to move forward safely, strategically and based on sound data from our health experts.”

“The wide variation we’re seeing in case counts within individual communities means that we cannot adopt a statewide approach for all schools,” she continued. “These triggers provide a benchmark for schools to use in carefully and safely planning for increased on-campus access for students beginning with Quarter 2, as appropriate.”

The teachers union, however, said it would fight the plan, calling it “dangerous.”

Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said the union would ask the Board of Education to institute distance learning at least until the second semester begins on Jan. 4.

He said the Health and Education departments didn’t consult the union.

* The Maui News contributed to this report.

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