Two dozen public schools across the state will begin serving grab-and-go breakfast and lunches Monday to help students who might otherwise miss meals during the extended three-week spring break.
Another 15 schools will begin the meal service Tuesday and Wednesday, for a total of 39 schools. The campuses stretch from Kau High on Hawaii island to Kapaa High on Kauai and include sites on Molokai, Lanai and Oahu, with an emphasis on areas with the greatest need for the subsidized meals.
Breakfast will be available for takeout from 7:30 to 8 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 to noon for children through age 18. The grab-and-go approach aims to prevent children from congregating. The list of schools is available online at hawaiipublicschools.org. More sites may be added in future.
All of Hawaii’s public schools will remain closed until at least April 6, with no educational programming during that time, in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The spring break, traditionally just a week long, has been extended to three weeks.
Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said the department hopes to resume instruction for students starting April 7, through a “mixed delivery” that could include online education as well as hard copies of instructional packets that can be used by those without internet access. Also on the agenda are support services for special-education students and English-language learners.
“The goal is to be able to start delivering on instruction on April 7 in some format,” Kishimoto said at a news conference. “We are looking at instructional packets. We are looking at distance learning. We are looking at web-based programs that we already have in place. We are looking at how do we maximize these different mediums so that all students have access. Equity is extremely important.”
But given the fast-changing nature of the COVID-19 situation and restrictions on movement, that could change, she said.
On Thursday the Department of Education closed all its offices except for essential functions for the next 15 days, and its employees are working remotely.
As currently planned, return dates for education workers are staggered. Custodians, principals and administrators would return to campus April 3. Over the April 4-5 weekend, custodians would continue deep- cleaning campuses, and teachers would return April 6.
“Things are changing by the hour, and so we ask for your patience and your understanding,” said Board of Education Chairwoman Catherine Payne. “Our entire state must band together to combat community spread of the virus, and school closures are an important part of the response. We will work closely with the department and our federal partners to ensure that education requirements continue to be met and students have access to such essential services as meals.”
Teachers have been on spring break but are expected to start working from home Monday to help plan for future instruction.
“They don’t have to report back until April 6,” Kishimoto said, “and before April 6 I will be reevaluating whether we’re talking about coming back physically to a school site to have a day of planning or whether we need to continue to look at teleworking.”
Even if school resumes in some form on April 7, with a mixed-delivery approach, “it doesn’t mean that all teachers have to be necessarily on-site,” Kishimoto said.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association welcomed the telework plan for teachers that starts Monday.
“We are glad that teachers will not have to return to schools for the duration of school closures,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said after Kishimoto’s news conference. “We’re working with the department to make sure we don’t put our educators and students in jeopardy.”
“We are still concerned the DOE has set a date for our schools to open,” he added. “Instead, HSTA believes that schools should remain closed indefinitely until we can guarantee that schools are a safe teaching and learning environment.”
Earlier this week the union filed a prohibited-practice complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board as well as an “emergency temporary interlocutory order” to prevent the state from forcing teachers to return to an unsafe workplace.