Hawaii public schools will not reopen until there are no new coronavirus cases for four weeks, the state Department of Education says in a new memo.

This 30-page memo includes remote learning resources for parents and educators, modified graduation requirements for students and other adjustments and recommendations aimed at dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

“The Department will continue to adjust its guidance as the scientific community learns more about the virus,” DOE spokeswoman Lindsay Chambers said in an email to Civil Beat on Wednesday.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists guidance for how long schools should be closed, but none for the reopening of schools.

Ethan Porter

The section involving the reopening of schools links to two documents from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One document discusses mitigation strategies for communities with local COVID-19 transmission. The other discusses considerations for length of school closures.

There is “almost no available data on the right time to re-start schools,” according to the CDC.

“We would advise to plan for a length of time and then evaluate based on continued community spread,” the CDC document says.

A state Department of Health spokeswoman said the DOE had not consulted with the agency before issuing its latest update.

It’s not clear how the DOE came up with the four-week model, but notes that it would cover two incubation periods of the coronavirus.

It does not appear likely, based on the recent update, that schools will be reopening for the rest of the academic year.

Hawaii is reporting dozens of new coronavirus cases on a daily basis. As of Wednesday, the state had 425 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including six deaths, the latest a Maui resident.

DOE schools, which serve 179,000 students and employ 14,000 educators, are currently closed through April 30, although the system has shifted into remote learning mode.

The last instructional day on the DOE calendar is May 28.

The April 7 DOE memo lists other considerations for the re-opening of schools besides the four-week virus-free stretch, including sufficient availability of the DOE workforce to reopen each school.

The reopening of facilities may prioritize services for “vulnerable learners” and address any social distancing that will be needed. The memo cautioned there may not be a comprehensive school program as soon as schools re-open.

DOE schools, when they do reopen, could see staggered start times and end times, and a combination of remote and in-person learning, according to the memo.

It also lists modified graduation requirements for high school seniors and advancement requirements for students in other grades. Last week, the Board of Education approved waiving standard high school graduation requirements for seniors.

Class grades and cumulative grade point averages will be based only on three quarters of the school year. The third quarter ended on March 13. The fourth quarter will not be graded.

During school closures, teachers can introduce new material or progress with lesson plans, the memo says, but students “cannot be penalized or graded.”

Additionally, attendance will not be taken in any form while schools are shuttered.

Students who can’t demonstrate proficiency in a class based on their third-quarter performance may be given opportunities to achieve proficiency until the last day of the calendar school year, but it will be up to individual schools to find solutions for those students, according to the memo.

It also references possible acceleration opportunities during the summer, including AP courses that could be available through E-school or summer school.

“HIDOE hopes to develop opportunities at no-cost to students,” the memo states.

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