More elementary students will be back on campus after spring break and secondary schools are also being asked to ramp up in-person learning, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said today.
The weeklong spring break for public schools begins March 15 and the fourth quarter starts March 22. Many schools have been bringing students back to school gradually this semester, but some campuses are still in distance learning.
“Elementary school principals are right now planning around how to maximize the number of students back on campus and identifying which schools are going to fully reopen,” Kishimoto said on Spotlight Hawaii, the Star-Advertiser’s online interview program.
“For middle school and high school, we’re asking all of them to start planning for greater numbers of students returning on campus because they do have the capacity and the ability to basically roll this up,” she said.
She noted that reopening poses a major logistical challenge for staff across the state but students need that opportunity.
Also in the fourth quarter, public schools will invite student athletes back to campus for conditioning and training, she said. But decisions on whether teams will be able to compete are up to the athletic leagues, not the superintendent, and are still pending, she said.
“We are opening up our fields, our workout rooms, our weight rooms for conditioning,” she said. “We are going to be issuing a statement by the end of this week telling our high schools and our middle schools they can start to come back together to do weight training, conditioning, practice.”
That’s especially important for seniors who are aiming at college scholarships related to athletics, she said.
So far, at least half of the state’s public school educators have received one or more doses of a coronavirus vaccine, Kishimoto said.
“Every educator on Kauai who wanted the vaccine has been vaccinated,” she said. “On the Big Island every educator who wanted the vaccine has had at least one dose. The biggest challenge is where our largest group is, which is here on Oahu, and we’re rolling through that now.”
Kishimoto declined to address criticism of her leadership by the teachers’ union, saying she is focused on reopening schools and responding would only be a distraction from that.
“This is about kids and what they need,” she said. “This is about families and what they need in terms of bringing hope back to the community.”
“We have surveys that show students are increasingly sad, we have surveys that show that students’ learning has been highly disrupted so they’re not doing well,” she said. “We are talking about the academic wellness of our students, the social and emotional wellness of our kids… that’s what we need to be focused on and that’s what we’re doing.”
The department is also working full bore on its project to fully replace its financial management system, which is more than 30 years old, she said. The new system is set to go live in July.