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State issues new guidelines for in-person, virtual learning

The Maui News

Decisions to reopen Hawaii’s public schools will be based on two consecutive seven-day averages of daily new case rates and positive testing rates per island, according to updated guidelines released by the state Department of Health on Monday.

The department sent out new guidance to elementary, middle and high schools on Monday to help administrators make decisions on transitioning between virtual, in-person or blended learning formats.

“The core considerations for schools, the measures schools must take to prevent spread of disease, have not changed and remain the most important part of any school’s preparations to open for in-person learning and their response to COVID-19,” Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist, said in a news release. “Our guidance on what learning model area complexes should adopt is still based on disease transmission rates and the ability of schools to respond to COVID-19.”

The state had previously based its reopening thresholds on a single, cumulative 14-day average. By shifting to a seven-day daily average per 100,000 people, the measures can be compared more easily with trend charts of case rates by county and island that are updated daily on the department’s website, the news release said. They can also be tracked alongside weekly county reopening measures.

“The ability to track the measures in real-time allows schools to look ahead and plan more actively for learning model changes, but the idea is to base an actual change in learning model on at least two weeks of data,” Kemble said.

The percent of tests that are positive by county has been added as a secondary measure.

Under the new guidelines, the state will recommend the following:

• In-person learning: 0 to 2.0 cases (seven-day daily average per 100,000 population) and 0 to 0.99 percent positivity rates.

• Elementary in-person learning and secondary blended learning: 2.1 to 5.0 cases, 1 to 2.49 percent positivity.

• Blended learning: 5.1 to 10.3 cases and 2.5 to 5 percent positivity.

• Elementary blended learning and secondary learning from home: 10.4 to 15.4 cases, 5.1 to 7.5 percent positivity.

• Learning from home: 15.5 or more cases, over 7.5 percent positivity.

The updated guidance is available at health.hawaii.gov/coronavirusdisease2019/school-guidance/.

It was put together through a collaboration of the state Department of Education, Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, Hawaii Catholic Schools, Hawaii Public Charter Schools Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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