With the coronavirus pushing education online, Hawaii’s public school students and their parents will be able to get technical assistance at home — in multiple languages — through a new ‘Ohana Help Desk this academic year.
The Department of Education launched the assistance center last week, billing it as the first comprehensive, statewide technology help desk for public school students and families.
“Help desk agents are available to assist you with your technology questions and issues as you go through your online classes and lessons,” Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a message to families. “There are also self-service supports through the ‘Ohana Help Desk portal, such as tip sheets, videos and links to other online resources.”
Advice is available for those who need it, starting with the basics, such as turning on a Chromebook and connecting to a network, for example, along with more complex issues. Families can learn through tutorials or by reaching out via phone or online chat.
The desk will troubleshoot for students connecting to DOE systems, including connectivity, access and security concerns as well as support with devices.
“While other school districts provide tech support to families, HIDOE’s help desk is statewide and was designed with a higher level of support, with phone support in multiple languages, chat support and an online portal,” the department said in a news release. “The help desk will be able to provide phone support in languages most commonly spoken in Hawaii households – English, Hawaiian, Ilokano, Tagalog, Chuukese and Marshallese.”
The department awarded Hawaiian Telcom a $1.7 million contract to establish the help desk as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The ‘Ohana Help Desk will be a tremendous resource for our parents and students who will be distance learning this school year to help resolve technical issues that may arise when students connect to the HIDOE network remotely using a variety of devices,” said Kishimoto. “We already provide a help desk service for our employees, and this is an extension of that effort. Assisting families in their preferred language will ensure that all students can successfully connect with classrooms and virtual lessons.”
Public school students statewide are scheduled to start the academic year on Aug. 17. The superintendent announced Friday that the first four weeks of school for students on Oahu will be in distance learning mode, given the spike in coronavirus cases.
Individual schools will invite students back to campus on a rolling basis for the first four days, Aug. 17-20, so they can meet their teachers, get some training on distance learning, and deal with questions of connectivity and access to technology. Vulnerable students and their families will be given special consideration for more in-person access to the school.
Cafeterias will serve only grab-and-go meals starting on Aug. 17. There will be no after-school programs.
On neighbor islands, where COVID-19 cases are much lower, school reopenings will take place as previously announced, with blended learning models and health and safety precautions.
The hours for the ‘Ohana Help Desk are:
>> By phone at 643-DESK (3375) Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sundays from 4 to 8 p.m. The help desk will be closed on state holidays.
>> Go online 24/7 to ohana helpdesk.org for self-service support and information.