Envision Schools As Assets In Struggle Against New Epidemic


About the Authors

Kaleolani Hanohano

Kaleolani Hanohano is a 30-year Department of Education veteran. Her focus is on the development of Smaller Learning Communities, Academies, and Aina-based Education. She is also a Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Curriculum and Assessment Development consultant.

Pauline W. U. Chinn

Pauline W. U. Chinn is a professor in the College of Education Department of Curriculum Studies at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Her research centers on place-based, culturally sustaining teacher leadership; the impact of teacher-developed curricula on student engagement and academic achievement; and studying Hawaiian language newspaper articles and related texts for STEM education and research.

Ruben Juarez

Ruben Juarez is a professor in the Economics Department and a UHERO research fellow at the University of Hawaii Manoa. His research includes measuring the health, economic and wellbeing impacts of community-based programs around Hawaii using social network approaches.

Alika Maunakea

Alika Maunakea is an associate professor of epigenomics in the Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry, and Physiology at JABSOM. He applies interdisciplinary approaches to address health disparities in the community by integrating systems biology in biomedical, laboratory-based research and Hawaiian knowledge in partnership with community-based organizations.

Riley Kauilani Wells

Riley Kauilani Wells is a molecular biosciences and bioengineering graduate student at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Her research on changes in public health over time in Hawaii, archived in Hawaiian-language newspapers, is conducted in parallel with her laboratory research on epigenomics and gut microbiota for developing community-based strategies to address health disparities in Native Hawaiians.

Alison Kaolinokaimana Yasuoka

Alison Kaolinokaimana Yasuoka is a College of Education STEMS2 graduate student at the University of Hawaii Manoa and public charter school educator. Her interest is in bringing place-based education into classrooms by continuing to engage and support community-based partnerships and educators in developing, and implementing compelling, interdisciplinary, place-based, biocultural curriculum that promotes critical thinking and discourse.


The impact of epidemics on Native Hawaiian and Pacific peoples during the Kingdom of Hawaii provides a historical perspective from which to learn and draw guidance about abating the current pandemic of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19 disease).

Historically, a holistic response to widespread disease incorporated aloha at its foundation, knowing that the responsibility to control and eradicate disease rested with all.

Hawaii’s dependence on global tourism and imports of food and energy puts us all at great economic and health risk, while socioeconomic, racial, and pre-existing health disparities make some communities more vulnerable than others.

As we now look to reopening schools, our local communities should not have to choose between education, economics, health, and wellbeing in isolation. Instead, businesses, government and health care agencies, community-based organizations, scientists, educators, and families need to connect, design, and implement innovative strategies to safely reopen schools.

Queen Liliuokalani Building. Board of Education offices. 16 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Board of Education will meet this week to reconsider when schools should reopen, and how, in light of COVID-19.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Rather than potentially becoming sites of community spread, schools could turn the tide of the growing pandemic through a collective, holistic effort.

Evidence of the disconnect between the current national policy and community concern is present in the reluctance of local school communities to reopen our schools. Over 4,000 testimonials submitted to the Board of Education challenged the state to consider the concerns of teachers, students, families, and their communities-at-large.

Modifications Required

Uncertainty involved in reopening reflects awareness that SARS-CoV-2 affects people of any age group in ways that still are not completely understood. Additionally, essential workers like grocery clerks, health care providers, and those in multigenerational households are faced with disparities in infectivity and risk.

We must navigate our way forward by sharing information collected by communities and research laboratories to build a knowledge base to better inform the public.

We can turn to 19th-century Hawaiian and English language newspapers as a model of a forum for community members, policymakers, and health professionals for actively sharing information during and between epidemics.

We believe a sustainable structure designed around a robust testing and monitoring system combined with the establishment of a community platform (i.e., website) that honors and incorporates community knowledge needs to be in place.

As people live in one community and work, shop, and play in others, there is an urgent need to increase access to widespread testing; to shorten the time to receive results; to create a robust contact tracing infrastructure; to involve communities as partners in messaging the COVID-19 response in expanding outreach; and to implement strategies that account for the screening of asymptomatic cases.

Without these modifications, we lack the ability to control or suppress the spread and are wholly unprepared to reopen schools and tourism.

Schools can be a source of resilience if we prepare students and provide outreach to families by teaching, modeling and promoting mask wearing, cleaning, social distancing, and examining patterns of behavior underlying the spikes in local cases. Schools can partner with scientists to collect data that better inform policy.

A record daily high of 73 cases on Saturday sustains an alarming upward trend we foresaw after the stay-at-home order eased. When faced with this uptick, our communities ask important questions like, “is the mutated, more contagious viral strain behind the spikes in cases around the world, already present in Hawaii?”

Researching to find an answer should be among our responses, as this more contagious strain may change the dynamics and context of the actions we take moving forward.

With the push to reopen schools and travel, proactive community advocacy for expanding COVID-19 testing is no longer an option; it is a necessity. We need to actively address the gaps in our current diagnostic approach by directly examining community spread, by having access to more complete state data, and considering strategies like modifying testing criteria, pooled testing or antibody-based testing.

Innovations of this kind would enhance our testing capacity, outreach and education, speed of results, and ability to catch missed diagnoses through identifying asymptomatic cases. One third or more of COVID-19 cases may be asymptomatic, and students over 10 years of age may spread the virus just as efficiently as adults.

Bringing teachers, students, and staff back to school in early August without safety training, standard guidelines, and readily available testing may put schools at the center of COVID-19 contagion. Reciprocally, asymptomatic spread within our communities will leave everyone in schools vulnerable.

If the number of cases continues to rise under our currently limited testing capacity, it will soon become impossible for contact tracers to identify the clusters of affected individuals in time to contain further spread. The recent uptick in cases portend this outcome.

Asymptomatic spread within our communities will leave everyone in schools vulnerable.

To prevent this outcome, empowering our schools with education, research, data, and transparent communication will be key. Schools can play an active role in reducing the number of COVID-19 cases by equipping teachers, students, and families with knowledge in a safe environment and implementing more effective practices and means for communication to connect with surrounding communities.

As parents, educators and scientists, we hope the knowledge of an impending reopening of schools and travel will lead to an intentional, broad-based, collective effort to incorporate community knowledge and data sharing into effective policies and practices for controlling SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and ultimately, to eliminate the virus locally.

Pupukahi i holomua. Let’s all come together to move forward in the best interest of everyone.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.


Read this next:

A Way Forward For The Keiki In Our Schools


Before you go…

During a crisis like this, it’s more important than ever to dig beyond the news, to figure out what government policies mean for ordinary citizens and how those policies were put together.

This is perhaps the biggest, most consequential story our reporters will ever cover. And at no other time in Civil Beat’s history have we relied on your support more. Please consider supporting Civil Beat by making a tax-deductible gift.

Contribute

About the Authors

Kaleolani Hanohano

Kaleolani Hanohano is a 30-year Department of Education veteran. Her focus is on the development of Smaller Learning Communities, Academies, and Aina-based Education. She is also a Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Curriculum and Assessment Development consultant.

Pauline W. U. Chinn

Pauline W. U. Chinn is a professor in the College of Education Department of Curriculum Studies at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Her research centers on place-based, culturally sustaining teacher leadership; the impact of teacher-developed curricula on student engagement and academic achievement; and studying Hawaiian language newspaper articles and related texts for STEM education and research.

Ruben Juarez

Ruben Juarez is a professor in the Economics Department and a UHERO research fellow at the University of Hawaii Manoa. His research includes measuring the health, economic and wellbeing impacts of community-based programs around Hawaii using social network approaches.

Alika Maunakea

Alika Maunakea is an associate professor of epigenomics in the Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry, and Physiology at JABSOM. He applies interdisciplinary approaches to address health disparities in the community by integrating systems biology in biomedical, laboratory-based research and Hawaiian knowledge in partnership with community-based organizations.

Riley Kauilani Wells

Riley Kauilani Wells is a molecular biosciences and bioengineering graduate student at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Her research on changes in public health over time in Hawaii, archived in Hawaiian-language newspapers, is conducted in parallel with her laboratory research on epigenomics and gut microbiota for developing community-based strategies to address health disparities in Native Hawaiians.

Alison Kaolinokaimana Yasuoka

Alison Kaolinokaimana Yasuoka is a College of Education STEMS2 graduate student at the University of Hawaii Manoa and public charter school educator. Her interest is in bringing place-based education into classrooms by continuing to engage and support community-based partnerships and educators in developing, and implementing compelling, interdisciplinary, place-based, biocultural curriculum that promotes critical thinking and discourse.


Latest Comments (0)

The (many) authors say we need to "connect, design, and implement innovative strategies to safely reopen schools." OK, here's an idea: Outdoor classrooms.

Dusty_T_Cell · 1 week ago

"...empowering our schools with education, research, data, and transparent communication will be key. Schools can play an active role in reducing the number of COVID-19 cases by equipping teachers, students, and families with knowledge in a safe environment and implementing more effective practices and means for communication to connect with surrounding communities." Some specific examples to illustrate the broad brushstroke recommendations would have been very helpful. The HIDOH is saying they can’t be more transparent with the data due to patient privacy rights so I’m not sure what other information these authors are asking for. What are the effective practices/means to connect with communities? I’m sure the schools will do all they can to teach kids and staff to be COVID-19 safe with mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. What more are these authors asking? It’s a lot of academic mumbo jumbo.

kbaybaby · 2 weeks ago

The authors envision conditions necessary for reopening schools that won't be realized for a long time.  For example, they acknowledge the importance of testing.  It's necessary to get test results quickly in order to contain the virus.  However, the authors don't seem to realize that there are so many tests being done nationally that the labs that process the tests are overwhelmed.  It takes days to get results -- and often a week, or even longer.  Infections are rising nationally, so getting timely test results is not going to be a reality anytime soon.  109 new cases were reported today in Hawaii.  Things are getting out of control.  Public schools should remain closed indefinitely.

sleepingdog · 2 weeks ago

Join the conversation

About IDEAS

IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

Mahalo!

You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.