Hawaii’s public schools are expected to stay shut until COVID-19 is no longer spreading in the community, defined as four weeks with no new cases, according to the Department of Education.
The state has been identifying about two dozen new cases a day on average in the past 10 days, so it is not likely the schools will reopen this academic year.
The four-week interval is contained in a guidance document on long-term school closures issued by the Department of Education and posted online at hawaiipublicschools.org. The 30-page document focuses mainly on how to handle educating students this semester while they and their teachers are sequestered at home.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Thursday that the guidance was drafted for planning purposes during the pandemic and she expects to make a decision next week about commencement ceremonies and the remainder of the current school year.
“This is an ever-evolving situation that requires constant monitoring and flexibility,” she said in an emailed statement.
Hawaii’s 283 public schools are officially closed until April 30, although teachers are working remotely with students on coursework. Under the traditional calendar, the last day of school for students would have been May 28.
In a section in the document on planning for reopening schools, the department quotes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as saying “there is almost no available data on the right time to re-start schools.”
It goes on to explain that the state Department of Education will plan for reopening schools when there is “no recent evidence of community spread.” Conditions include:
>> No new cases for four weeks (two incubation periods of the virus) on the island.
>> Availability of workforce is sufficient for reopening each school.
The department plans to follow the county’s lead if it is necessary to reopen schools on a staggered basis.
A comprehensive school program may not be available immediately once school resumes, the memo warns.
School programs might resume in phases and could include provisions for social distancing, priority services for vulnerable learners, staggered start and end times, modified attendance requirements and a combination of school-based and distance learning, it says.