Hawaii’s public schools will remain closed through April 30 in line with Gov. David Ige’s statewide stay-at-home directive, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto announced Tuesday.
School officials previously had hoped to have students return on April 7 after an extended three-week spring break.
“School facilities will be closed to students until at least April 30 and traditional in-school instruction is on hold until schools reopen,” Kishimoto wrote in a letter to parents and guardians. “Hawaii Department of Education and charter schools will be sending out information about enrichment opportunities, including online resources and instructional packets.”
Speaking at this afternoon’s Senate COVID-19 hearing, Kishimoto explained that teachers will be teleworking. Monday was their first day back on the job — albeit remotely — after their spring break.
“All teachers are working this week and they’ll continue to work virtually,” she said. “They are not being asked to come to school sites. A few teachers have asked if they can come to pick up materials. We are giving them staggered times to come.”
Although instruction will not continue as usual, the department intends to provide enrichment and educational resources, both online and in print, for students, she said.
“We don’t want students to be stepping away from learning for an extended period of time,” Kishimoto said. “We are focused not on the typical instructional design but certainly enrichment.”
Schools intend to roll out a system of online instructional resources as well as printed packets for those lacking internet access, starting next week, she said. The printed materials would be made available on campus for pick up in a staggered manner, or delivered to students in remote areas who have trouble getting to school. Kishimoto said some instructional time could be made up over the summer.
The school system remains open in the sense that employees are teleworking. And about 40 campuses across the state are providing grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for students, since many of them depend on those subsidized meals. Cafeteria workers are following social distancing requirements on campus.
“I want to thank each and every one of the department’s 44,000 employees for working in new ways during these unprecedented times,” Kishimoto said.
With 10,000 seniors on track to graduate this May, planning is underway to modify graduation requirements, Kishimoto said. Such a proposal that would need to go to the Board of Education, which next meets on April 2. Sen. Michelle Kidani also asked that special consideration also be given to students who are working toward career and technical education certificates that could lead straight to jobs.
The department said it will ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to enrichment opportunities.
“Schools are working toward providing the most appropriate modifications and accommodations under the circumstances,” the department wrote in a news release. “Related services that can be provided via telepractice will be considered on a case-by-case basis for students who have qualified for these services. When school resumes in its traditional manner, Individualized Education Program and Section 504 teams will meet to determine if there was a loss of skills as a result of the extended school closure, and the need for compensatory education.”
With construction considered an essential service, some school repair and maintenance projects are also under way.
“We do have projects that are continuing,” Kishimoto told senators in response to a question. “We are just putting in place safety measures on access, social distancing, ensuring things are cleaned up before and after work and so forth.”