As rough as this necessary stay-at-home order is on the nearly 180,000 Hawaii public school students cooped up at home and all their teachers trying to come up with creative work-arounds to lesson plans, it could have been worse.
There could have been no distance learning, no homework packets, no attempts to make use of the home time, no grab-and-go meals, no plan for how to make sure high school seniors could graduate. Modern sensibilities have made school a priority even in a time of a global pandemic. Hawaii’s economy is in shambles, thousands are out of work, over 200 people in Hawaii have tested positive for COVID-19, toilet paper is being rationed and we’re worried about the keiki’s education, which may be the most hopeful sign yet — proof that in dark days, Hawaii is still planning for the future.
Making up instruction hours wasn’t always as much of a priority.
When Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai in 1992, all schools on the island were closed for several weeks. Once some schools started back in session, the main concern was that students had to wear shoes because of the possibility of lingering debris. Seniors graduated on time. There wasn’t even a question of making up credits or extending the school year. The situation was different, of course, because homework was nearly impossible when so many students had just lost their homes.
Way back in the 1979-80 school year, Hawaii public schools came to a shuddering halt due to a public workers strike. Trash on campus started piling up, and many schools were closed for three weeks or more. After the strike was resolved and school was back in session, a winter storm swept through the islands, causing all sorts of mayhem, and all the schools on Maui, Molokai and Lanai plus several on Oahu had to be closed due to wind damage and flooding. Students in some schools were out for a month or more.
There was a bit of concern about all the instructional days that were missed and some chatter about extending the school year into summer vacation, an argument that gained zero traction from teachers and students alike. A group of public school student- leaders lobbied to keep their set graduation dates, and the Board of Education decided the class of 1980 could graduate on time but would have to be in school right up to their graduation date, thus forgoing the traditional early dismissal for seniors four days before the end of the term. And that was that. Nobody got a take-home packet of worksheets. Nobody even thought about it.
But now sensibilities have changed. People are worried about the keiki, and not just parents, teachers and school administrators, but the community in general and the students themselves. Online learning has made access to learning possible for more students, of course, but the commitment to maintain public education despite our current hardships is one of the best examples of hope for the future.