Question: Last week, it was announced that all students will receive free breakfast and lunch at Hawaii public schools compliments of the federal government (808ne.ws/sty715). Does this include public charter schools? If not, why not? If not, what do the public charter schools need to do to qualify for this program?
Answer: No, the blanket fee waiver does not apply to public charter schools, only to public schools administered by the statewide school system, said Derek Inoshita, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.
Here’s his emailed response, which includes some information about what public charter schools can do:
“The recently announced USDA waiver for the Hawaii Department of Education does not apply to charter schools. HIDOE operates as a single School Food Authority and is responsible for school meal administration at all 257 public schools under Code of Federal Regulations, Title 7, Part 210 — National School Lunch Program. Public charter schools operate as independent school food authorities and are responsible for meal administration at their specific campus(es). They work directly with the Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs as the primary state agency for food program operations under 7 CFR 210.9. Charter schools may submit program applications for each school year to HCNP and are responsible for informing their families of the program(s) implemented.”
Inoshita provided links to the federal regulations and programs he cited — 808ne.ws/7CFR2102, 808ne.ws/SLP, and 808ne.ws/7CFR2109 — as well as to the Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs, hcnp.hawaii.gov/, which is part of the HIDOE, according to its website.
We called the HCNP on Tuesday afternoon asking if individual public charter schools could qualify for free breakfast and lunches for their students for the 2021-2022 school year and were told to email the HCNP’s National School Lunch Program specialists directly. We emailed the three listed on HCNP’s contact page but did not hear back by Wednesday afternoon.
Hawaii’s 37 charter schools, although public, operate independently, with their own governing boards and under performance contracts with the Public Charter School Commission.
Sheryl Turbeville, a spokeswoman for the commission, said that it had contacted the HIDOE National School Lunch Program and been informed “that public charter schools that currently participate in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program could participate in the free meals program, but they would need to apply for a waiver and if approved, they would be able to offer their students free meals as well.”
However, she said, not all public charter schools currently participate. “Accordingly, we also inquired with HIDOE NSLP to see if those schools can become a part of that program and then participate in the free meals for all public school students,” she said in an email, referring us to the DOE for more information.
Q: First of all, I’d like to acknowledge that the rise of the Delta variant seems to justify Gov. Ige’s cautious approach on the masking and reopening (wanting to get to 70% vaccination rate). I also have two questions: Given that the Delta variant is so much more contagious, and that letting these variants flourish just leads to more variants, will the governor consider tightening the Safe Travels program to allow only people who are fully vaccinated to avoid quarantine and mandating that state workers get vaccinated?
A: No, not at this time, the governor’s communications office said in an email late Tuesday afternoon:
“There is definitely concern about the recent triple- digit case counts and the Delta variant, and the state is closely evaluating the numbers. The most recent data show that the U.K. variant is currently the dominant variant in Hawaii at 22% of all COVID cases, with the Delta variant close behind at 19%. (As of July 12, per the state Department of Health). While the number of COVID-related hospitalizations is creeping up, it remains stable at this time. We also know that treatment for the virus today is much better than it was a year ago. For these reasons, there are currently no plans to tighten the Safe Travels program.”
As for a mandate, “There is currently no plan to require state workers to be vaccinated at this time. The state continues to evaluate the data and discuss the best way forward as we work to protect our community from COVID-19.”
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