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Hawaii public schools to reopen with safeguards

  • JAMM AQUINO / MARCH 13
                                McKinley High School walk on campus after school on March 13 just before all Hawaii public school campuses were closed to students because of the threat of COVID-19. An agreement between the state Board of Education and the teachers’ union announced Sunday will reopen campuses for the new school year.

    JAMM AQUINO / MARCH 13

    McKinley High School walk on campus after school on March 13 just before all Hawaii public school campuses were closed to students because of the threat of COVID-19. An agreement between the state Board of Education and the teachers’ union announced Sunday will reopen campuses for the new school year.

Hawaii public schools will reopen Aug. 4 with students and teachers on campus for the new school year, according to an agreement reached between the Board of Education and the teachers’ union.

Public schools were closed after spring break and remained closed until the end of the school year due to COVID-19.

“Our schools will reopen on August 4 barring any drastic change with the COVID-19 situation,” the Department of Education said in an email.

“The Hawaii State Teachers Association, the state of Hawaii and Board of Education have agreed on a memorandum of understanding to allow continuity of education next school year with certain contract modifications while assuring the safety of educators and students,” HSTA said Sunday in a notice to members.

According to the agreement, schools will maintain six feet of separation between and among students and staff members “whenever possible;” all individuals, including employees, students, and campus visitors should wear face coverings especially in circumstances where sufficient physical distancing is difficult or impossible; there will be exceptions to the face-covering rule for situations such as when it is not safe or poses a medical risk; and schools will practice proper cleaning and disinfecting, including providing cleaning and hygiene supplies, personal protective equipment, and guaranteed reimbursement if supplies are not available and teachers have to purchase them.

The union’s Board of Directors voted “overwhelmingly to approve the tentative agreement in order to ensure a number of protections as we start the 2020–21 school year.”

The Department of Education agreed to “nearly every” HSTA proposal on school and worksite health and safety, the union said. The DOE did not agree to provide child care for public school teachers whose children are impacted by hybrid schedules, was unwilling to agree to negotiate anything mandating specific classroom configurations, health and safety processes and procedures, or a 100-percent mask rule with no exceptions, the union said.

“While this agreement does not guarantee every option we sought, we firmly believe it is the best protection we could negotiate given these unprecedented circumstances,” the union said.

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