Hawaii private schools preparing for in-person instruction

HONOLULU — As school administrators across the country grapple with ways to restart classes during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many private schools in Hawaii expect to begin the new year with in-person instruction.

The private schools are typically smaller than their public counterparts and can more easily make adjustments, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

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Philip Bossert, executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, said flexibility is a hallmark of its 120 member schools.

“They can move pretty fast and do things responsibly without asking 10,000 people,” Bossert said. “To my knowledge all of them have a plan to open face-to-face, but when will be entirely up to each of them. And they have a plan also to switch back to remote learning if necessary.”

The Hawaii Association of Independent Schools has sent daily updates and hosted numerous virtual discussions for school leaders, Bossert said.

“Each school is developing its own sort of plan on face masks or not, depending on the age of the students and also their collective parents,” Bossert said.

La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls in Honolulu, which plans to reopen Thursday with 130 students in grades 6 through 12, has benefited from its small size while adjusting to health requirements, school Communications Coordinator Tzana Saldania said.

The school’s classes typically have seven or eight students who will all wear masks in classrooms and stay 6 feet apart. The school will use barriers as needed, she said.

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Timothy Cottrell, head of Honolulu’s Iolani School, said students were invited to campus last month to try masks and face shields that would be used during the year, along with social distancing and frequent hand washing.

“We can’t control contagion outside of our school for everybody when they’re off campus, but our goal is to make it incredibly difficult for transmission to occur on our campus,” Cottrell said.

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