The union representing more than 13,000 teachers across Hawaii today formally demanded to enter into negotiations with the state Department of Education in regard to working conditions and the safety of employees and students amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association submitted the demand for negotiations this morning to Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi and Board of Education chairwoman Catherine Payne, in addition to an open letter signed by nearly 2,000 educators asking for changes that would make schools safer.
During a midday news conference, HSTA leaders recounted numerous reports by teachers that suggest the schools aren’t following COVID-19 protocols as strictly as the department says it is.
Last year there was a memorandum of understanding between the teachers and the department that, for example, allowed schools to switch between modes of instruction, from in-person to hybrid and distance learning. But the state refused to bargain on the MOU for this year, union leaders said, and instead insisted on in-person learning with limited alternatives.
“Enough is enough,” said Osa Tui Jr., HSTA president. “We need the department, the board and the governor to work with us so we can all truly ensure the safety our students deserve.”
The DOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.