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Most schools still distance learning

Only few in county will go with in-person classes during second quarter

This photo of Lokelani Intermediate School was taken Friday afternoon on the last day of classes for the semester. When students return to school after break on Oct. 12, they will transition to a hybrid model of distance and face-to-face learning. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

When public school resumes after fall break, only three Maui County campuses are planning to immediately make changes to involve more face-to-face learning.

Other schools will continue second quarter instruction, which begins Oct. 12, “as is” with the majority conducting distance learning, the state Department of Education said this week. First quarter instruction ended Friday.

There are some exceptions. Kilohana and Maunaloa elementary schools on Molokai and Hana High & Elementary School’s pre-kindergarten through 5th grade have been and will continue their face-to-face learning through the second quarter, said Complex Area Superintendent Lindsay Ball.

Hana High & Elementary School will be adding an extra day of face-to-face instruction for each high school grade level and implement full face-to-face instruction for middle school students, the department said.

Other schools will be introducing face-to-face instruction at the beginning of the second quarter. Lokelani Intermediate in Kihei is scheduled to implement a hybrid model with some students on campus with face-to-face instruction and the other students in distance learning on a rotational basis.

Lokelani Intermediate School’s award-wining mural greets students staff and visitors at the front of the Kihei school. This photo was taken Friday afternoon. In 2018, the school was presented with a plaque and a $5,000 check by the The Hawai’i Community Foundation, on behalf of the Cooke Foundation, in recognition of the creation of the mural and the work that went into making it happen. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Lanai High & Elementary School is planning to add more face-to-face instruction beginning with pre-kindergarten through 5th grade. Upper grades will begin second quarter with distance learning.

The Education Department said Sept. 17 that it will use newly released guidance from the state Department of Health to plan for appropriate learning models for the remainder of the academic year, beginning with the second quarter.

The Health Department has established metrics involving levels of community transmission of COVID-19 that would trigger corresponding learning model parameters, such as in-person learning, a blended model of in-person and distance education along with full distance learning.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association has taken issue with the metrics and had sought to extend distance learning until the end of second quarter.

On Thursday, the state Board of Education passed “directing factors” for the DOE to consider during its planning effort to ensure schools can safety transition to different instructional models moving forward, said Nanea Kalani, a DOE spokeswoman.

The board eliminated an impediment to moving out of distance learning. Prior to the move, the DOE could not transition out of distance learning until it incorporated all BOE’s directives into its “Ready to Learn” guidance plan to reopen schools.

“This means schools can move ahead as planned,” Kalani said in an email Friday regarding the BOE’s actions.

But to minimize disruption, the complex areas plan to start the second quarter “as is” with the exception of a few schools that have already developed plans that meet health and safety guidelines, Kalani said.

“Others will gradually implement reopening plans that align with health guidance. As decisions are made, schools will communicate directly with families and staff,” Kalani added.

According to the Health Department’s latest metrics, based on population and new COVID-19 cases, all schools on Maui and Lanai have the green light for in-person courses for all students.

But on Molokai, which has been experiencing a bump in cases, the DOH recommends in-person learning for elementary schools but a blended learning model for secondary school grades. 

Ball said Kaunakakai Elementary, Molokai High and Molokai Middle schools will begin second quarter with virtual learning. 

The metric evaluates the number of COVID-19 cases within a two-week time frame per 10,000 people on each individual island.

Francoise Wittenburg, principal of Lokelani Intermediate, said that her campus has “the physical space to safely accommodate additional learners on campus through a hybrid blended model.”

In an email, she added that Lokelani will continue to prioritize its most vulnerable learners for on-campus instruction, which include those who are not meeting standards through distance learning.

“As part of the planning process, Lokelani was able to demonstrate that it could meet all of the DOH guidelines required for in-person and blended learning, including capping capacity at 50 percent for school facilities and student transportation, organizing student class rotations to limit interactions, ensuring sufficient staffing levels and establishing cleaning and disinfection routines,” Wittenburg said.

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

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