Hawaii education officials on every level are scrambling to contend with the latest COVID-19 surge, with public schools reporting another jump in teacher absences and Chaminade University joining the growing list of institutions shifting temporarily to virtual learning.
Today, 1,812 public school teachers were absent, meaning approximately 14% of the 12,800 teachers statewide were out, according to state Department of Education data.
The absences were roughly 13% higher than the 1,600 that interim state schools Superintendent Keith Hayashi reported Wednesday, and about 39% higher than the approximately 1,300 teachers DOE said were typically out in December before the omicron variant surge.
There still weren’t enough substitute teachers to cover the growing count of sick calls, which meant other teachers, administrators and school staff were compelled to help supervise students.
Of the 1,543 positions that needed substitute teachers today, 1,101, or about 71%, were filled, while 442 teacher absences went uncovered by substitutes. The DOE said substitute teachers weren’t needed for 269 absences.
In a memo to schools today, Hayashi reiterated his commitment to maintaining full in-person learning across the state’s 257-school system.
“While we hope for a speedy recovery for those affected, our focus continues to remain on our mitigation strategies: getting vaccinated and boosted, staying home when sick, wearing a mask and washing our hands,” Hayashi wrote. “Although making adjustments and modifications this school year has not been easy, being able to keep our schools open is a testament to your commitment to our students.”
Meanwhile, Kanu o ka ‘Aina on Hawaii island joined the growing list of local public charter schools shifting to remote learning because of the surge. Today it became at least the ninth Hawaii charter school out of 37 to report a pandemic- related disruption to instruction.
Chaminade is moving its first three weeks of the new semester fully online “out of an abundance of caution,” with in-person learning at the campus in Kaimuki on hold until at least Jan. 31, school officials announced today in a statement. “The temporary pause will allow the university to explore additional safety precautions, such as the possibility of on-campus testing.”
The University of Hawaii previously announced that most classes across its 10 campuses would go virtual when instruction begins Monday.
Nationwide, there have been more than 5,400 pandemic-related temporary school disruptions this week in K-12 schools, according to Burbio, a company that monitors COVID-19 policies in more than 80,000 K-12 campuses.