The Hawaii State Teachers Association, joined by other school-affiliated labor unions, struck a provisional deal with the Department of Education on Monday to push back students’ return to school to Aug. 17.

The deal must be approved by the Board of Education, which is meeting Thursday to discuss adjustments to the academic school calendar and the need for written health and safety guidance for school teachers in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed start date for students is two weeks later than when public school students were initially scheduled to start the new school year, Aug. 4.

Kaneohe Elementary School summer school ‘My First Day of Summer School’ during COVID-19 pandemic. June 12, 2020
The first day of school could be pushed back to Aug. 17, two weeks later than scheduled. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

It applies to instruction in any format, whether in-person or distance learning.

The deal follows a frenzied call by the labor unions to postpone students’ return to school until teachers and school administrators receive more training on how to safely bring students back onto campus or to accommodate distance learning.

Most of the DOE’s 257 schools planned to start the 2020-21 school year with a mix of in-person and virtual learning. 

The BOE received an outpouring of testimony at its most recent meeting, mostly from teachers pleading with the board to consider postponing the school year in light of their concerns.

The agreement would give teachers — who are still required to report to work as scheduled Wednesday — nine additional days of training and preparation time for “the safe return of students to classrooms,” according to an email HSTA sent its members Monday.

In a statement Monday night, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said the DOE reached the conditional agreement to “accommodate concerns regarding employee training.”

“We will use this time to prepare at yet another level, but I recognize this comes at a cost for public school parents and our students,” she said.

The agreement also includes the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the union that represents principals and education assistants, and United Public Workers, which represents school custodial staff.

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