Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023 |
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GOV. DAVID IGE
All public schools will remain closed for a week following spring break due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. David Ige announced the extension of spring break, which was slated today through Friday, for public schools during a briefing held Sunday afternoon in Honolulu. Students will now return to class on March 30.
“We know how important our public school is to our communities,” Ige said. “We are committed to having a safe, stable place for our children during this time. We know that there is tremendous impact when a school or schools close.”
During the closure, school leadership will work to implement social distancing plans.
“It really is about changing how schools conduct classes Virtually everything that they do will be evaluated so that we can implement appropriate social distance activities that will allow us to keep our schools safe,” Ige said. “We do believe that this will provide a better environment.”
The shutdown impacts more than 179,000 public and public charter school students across the state. Federally funded Head Start and Pre-Plus programs are also following the state’s lead and closing.
“We understand the impact this will have on our families. This was not an easy decision to make but we take seriously our responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and the broader community while carrying out our educational mission,” DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said. “Public schools serve as hubs of care in our communities, from access to health care to providing free and reduced price meals. We intend to restart school immediately once it is deemed safe to do so to reduce disruption to our school communities and provide consistency for our children.”
Graduation ceremonies, typically held in mid-to-late May, have not yet been modified; scheduling announcements will be made at a future date, the DOE said.
Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas on Sunday praised the action taken by Ige and the DOE.
Though a tough decision, every precaution must be taken to “flatten the curve” or slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, she said.
“We must work together, now more than ever, to identify existing resources, and collaborate in order to mitigate the challenges closing schools will present to our communities,” Villegas said. “We must all step up, at a distance of course, to play a part. Offering what we can, doing what we can and sharing what we can in order to see us through this crisis.”
She noted that other states are organizing high school kids to watch younger children while parents work. In addition, school cafeterias are still providing meals and organizations are delivering to those who can’t get those meals.
“Solutions abound, let’s find them,” Villegas said.
Also Sunday, three new positive cases of coronavirus in Hawaii were reported to the state Department of Health. Two cases were on Oahu and one was on Maui. None had come to Hawaii Island, according to the update.
“All three are travel-related with exposure outside of the state,” Ige said.
The tests were conducted at private laboratories and were pending confirmation at a state public health laboratory. All three are in isolation and under Department of Health observation.
To date, there have been seven cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii with four on Oahu, two on Kauai and one on Maui.
Amid the ongoing outbreak, private schools have individually announced closures, including two Waimea schools on Friday.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy announced the suspension of all face-to-face classes. For the two weeks following spring break, the school will move to distance learning. Remote classes will begin April 1. If experts recommend that gathering in large groups is safe again, regular classes will resume on April 15.
Also Friday, Parker School announced the closure of its campus for the next four weeks, with tentative plans to resume operations on April 13.
Headmaster Carl Sturges said the private school intends to continue education via distance learning with more details to be released March 23. All other school activities are canceled until regular classes resume.
“I am very aware of the tremendous impact this action will have on all of our families, and I know that our community will work together to support one another during these challenging times. The safety of our ‘ohana is always our first priority, and I look forward to the time when we can resume a more familiar kind of school life,” a message from Sturges reads., “As this situation unfolds, we will communicate any adjustments to our plans. In the meantime, please stay safe and let us know of your questions and concerns while we continue to work remotely, checking emails and messages.”
Kamehameha Schools on Friday said it was monitoring the situation. With the exception of interscholastic athletic competition and the Kealakulia intersession programs scheduled today through Friday, all campuses, preschools, community programs, and business operations will continue as normal until further notice, according to the update.
“We continue to carefully monitor the coronavirus situation, which is evolving quickly. … As more information becomes available, we are committed to providing timely, relevant updates about any impacts on KS operations,” a message posted on the Kamehameha Schools website reads.
The order to close temporarily Hawaii’s public schools came hours after New York City announced it would close the nation’s largest public school system effective this morning, sending over 1.1 million children home in hopes of curbing the spread of coronavirus, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
More than 1,900 schools will remain closed through at least April 20 and possibly for the school year.
The worldwide outbreak has sickened more than 156,000 people and left more than 5,800 dead, with thousands of new cases confirmed each day.
The death toll in the United States climbed to 64, while infections neared 3,000 on Sunday.
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