The Hawaii State Teachers Association, which represents 13,500 teachers, pushed back against the order when it was announced, saying it would be burdensome to teachers living in remote or rural areas who don’t have regular access to free testing and also for not providing a religious or medical exemption. But the union has so far not made any other public statements regarding the mandate, other than posting a video message to members.
The state order applies to all DOE personnel, including 22,000 full-time workers and substitutes, plus volunteers. There is no firm figure on how many DOE teachers are currently vaccinated, though the previous superintendent said it was 80%.
Asked why the deadline for Hawaii DOE employees begins Aug. 23, rather than Aug. 16 as specified in the proclamation, DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani said it was because “the testing requirement is once every seven days.”
“So Aug. 23 would be the first deadline when test results are required from HIDOE employees,” she said via email.
DOE employees who choose not to get vaccinated and cannot find a place to get a free test will have to do it during non-work hours and at their own expense, according to Friday’s release.
Those who are vaccinated can start to upload their vaccination status and documentation beginning Monday through the DOE’s electronic Human Resources system.
“Encouraging vaccinations and implementing this weekly testing requirement in addition to our core essential strategies will help protect our ability to provide safe, in-person learning for our students,” interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said in a statement.
During Friday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser Spotlight livestream, Hayashi addressed a question about mandatory student vaccinations since the shots are currently only available to those 12 and older. He said it was a decision for the state Department of Health to make, and if such a call was made, that “we would abide by that.”
“Right now, it’s not something the Department of Education can require of all our students,” he said.
When it comes to mandatory vaccinations for student-athletes and coaches, announced last week by the DOE, he said the DOE has “the flexibility and latitude to require the vaccinations” since extracurriculars are “by student choice.” The department had pushed back the start of the fall sports season to Sept. 24 to provide time for these vaccinations.
“With all the students vaccinated, hopefully that will ensure we do have a season,” he said.
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.