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HGEA, UPW join teachers’ union in call to delay public school reopening

The state’s two largest government-worker unions are joining the Hawaii State Teachers Association in calling for the state to delay its reopening of the state’s public schools.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers joined the effort via press release issued by the HSTA this afternoon.

”We do not feel the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) and the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) have done enough to properly create and implement health strategies to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on our public school campuses,” the unions said.

Gov. David Ige, School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Health Department officials on Monday announced that they are now eyeing an Aug. 4 reopening date for schools.

Public school teachers would return to campus July 29, while students would be expected back on Aug. 4, with the first two weeks half-days for students, to ease the transition and provide more time for teacher training.

Most campuses would offer a mixed instructional approach, with students spending some days on campus and some learning at home to reduce the head count on campus and enable social distancing. Even while working at home, students would stay in contact with their teachers, she said.

The organizations said they don’t believe school buildings and other facilities will be safe until the Health Department provides written guidance on the reopening of school buildings, and all faculty and staff are properly trained and provided sufficient supplies, equipment, and protocols to ensure our facilities are kept clean and people are safe.

UPW represents most blue-collar workers including custodians, cafeteria workers, skilled trade workers and school occupational therapy assistants while HGEA represents principals, vice principals, athletic directors, athletic health trainers, cafeteria managers, educational assistants, security attendants, special services personnel, school health assistants, school custodian supervisors and clerical staff.

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