A Way Forward For The Keiki In Our Schools - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Luke McKenney

Luke McKenney earned a juris doctorate and a B.A. in economics from Michigan State University. He has 15 years of Department of Defense experience, including being enlisted Marine Infantry at K-Bay MCB, as an Army budget officer and as a Navy financial analyst. He did combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq and is currently a free-lance consultant and writer.


With known COVID-19 infections rising recently in our state, many parents are concerned with what their children’s public education looks like in August and beyond.

Our keiki are anxious too. Clearly, online learning isn’t as beneficial to most young students as class time is. Current plans to reopen schools in August are reasonable and well thought out, but could use a bit more out-of-the-box thinking.

The primary limitation to offering full-time classroom instruction to all the students is limited physical space. Adding more space would take time and be costly. But we can very easily increase the time that space is available. Currently classrooms were empty two whole days out of seven.

Yes, I am writing about Saturdays and Sundays. What a waste of scarce resources.

Having the schools partially open one or two more days a week should alleviate most of the physical distancing/safety issues. In addition, we could also make the school day the same length as a work day, including time for exercise and socializing.

Kaneohe Elementary School summer school classroom during COVID-19 pandemic. June 12, 2020

A classroom at Kaneohe Elementary. School officials should consider out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to public education during a pandemic.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Another “time” factor is to decrease seasonal breaks so that the new school year will have just as many classroom hours, or more, as the norm before COVID-19. Time matters.

We could offer four days a week of classroom instruction for every student if schools were open seven days a week, but a compromise would be to just have partial services offered on Saturdays so that every student could be offered three days of classroom instruction. Current plans offer only two days a week to some students.

That is unacceptable. We can safely offer every keiki three days of classroom instruction if we temporarily progress past the five-day work week that unions have burdened us with.

Hire More Temps

Of course, to minimize the costs we will need more temporary teacher assistants too. This would enable the teachers who are too scared to teach to volunteer to be furloughed or to handle the distant learning side.

The teacher assistants should still have basic background checks and suitable educational credentials for the grade and subject matter, but shouldn’t be required to be certified.

We don’t have the time and such certifications have always been more about restricting the supply of teachers than insuring quality. It is win-win as it will help get some people off unemployment until tourism sporadically regains strength.

We can do better by our keiki than the current proposals.

Hopefully, some will decide to become teachers or otherwise become involved in the educational system as a career.

Another benefit as Hawaii continues to be short of teachers, especially “locally grown” ones. Current certified teachers should have increased supervisory roles and thus should be granted bonuses if they volunteer to do so. Longer hours should also be compensated.

We can do better by our keiki than the current proposals. Why leave our valuable classroom space empty two days a week during a pandemic? Either it is a crisis that necessitates changes to how we go about our daily lives or it is not.

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About the Author

Luke McKenney

Luke McKenney earned a juris doctorate and a B.A. in economics from Michigan State University. He has 15 years of Department of Defense experience, including being enlisted Marine Infantry at K-Bay MCB, as an Army budget officer and as a Navy financial analyst. He did combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq and is currently a free-lance consultant and writer.


Latest Comments (0)

Great idea! Thank you for writing and putting it out there! commentors are prob right about unions and stuff. But it would be awesome to try somewhere, somehow! Working parents schedules are already messed up! Why not throw in something else. And maybe I might actually have time on the weekends to help since we're taking a break from sports. So it might be good even post covid!

KaneoheMom · 1 week ago

Luke - I love people like you who think out of the box to come up with solutions. You are absolutely right that space at schools is the issue right now so extending the school days to include weekends and breaks can definitely solve the social distancing space issue. Here’s the rub: HSTA, HGEA and HIDOE leadership. They don’t like people like Luke who come up with creative solutions where teachers and staff have to be flexible and do things differently.  Will Luke’s proposal need additional funds? Of course but maybe the UH teachers in training can get their in- class hours and DOE administrators can pitch in. How nice it would be to see Kishimoto and district superintendents actually teaching in a classroom.

kbaybaby · 1 week ago

Teachers are being asked to do so much more with so much less during this pandemic. I'm all for extending the school year into the summer months and even holding classes on the weekends. However, it is altogether unrealistic and ignorant to demand that teachers put in even MORE hours of teaching, given that their current salaries aren't adequate as it is. Hawaii notoriously underpays their teachers. Our teacher shortage isn't because people don't want to teach in Paradise. It's because they can't afford to live in the highest cost-of-living state in the country on a teacher's salary. Now add the threat of becoming sick with COVID and the multitude of other stressors and dynamics new to teaching during the pandemic -- who is going to sign up for that? We need to double down and reinvest in our teachers and our public education system rather than make them the scapegoat during this pandemic.

evjoy08 · 1 week ago

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