The state teachers union wants the Hawaii Department of Education to push back the Aug. 4 school start date saying health and safety protocols have not been properly articulated and teachers haven’t been given time to prepare for lessons.

“We are two weeks away from buildings being open and yet critical questions are not being answered,” said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee during a press conference. “We need to take our time and get it right.”

The union’s call to delay comes a day after Gov. David Ige held a media briefing with the DOE school superintendent, Board of Education chairwoman and state epidemiologist to confirm the DOE would hold steady to its scheduled Aug. 4 reopen date, saying the timing was right given the decision to delay reopening Hawaii to tourism to Sept. 1.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee DOE Salary session held at McKinley Adult School.
HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said Tuesday the union has “no confidence” schools are ready to physically reopen on Aug. 4. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

While Rosenlee did not specify a preferred date to reopen schools, he raised several points: that the state Department of Health has not provided any written guidance on how to safely open schools; that DOE has not given parents enough information on all-distance learning options for kids in grades 5 and below; and that it’s not clear what protocols must be followed if a student, teacher or other school employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Pearl City High School science teacher Brandon Cha pointed out that most teachers only get paid 10 months out of the year, so any training for online platforms offered by DOE during the summer months was optional-only and “definitely not widespread.”

The teachers’ union is also upset with the relatively short amount of time between the date teachers report back to school — July 29 — and the Aug. 4 reopen date.

That is only four days of prep time, the same amount of time teachers get in a typical year, Cha said.

“What we are dealing with and what teachers are asking to modify for, is way more than what we can accomplish safely in four days,” he said.

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