Distance learning offered at some BI schools

With a new school year nearing and COVID-19 case counts currently climbing, the state Department of Education this week published a list of schools that will offer distance learning options when students return Aug. 3.

“Determining whether or not distance learning is an appropriate option for a student has to be a conversation between the parent and the school,” DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani said in an email. “The list of available distance learning options published this week reflects current demand and capacity to accommodate distance learning programs for the school year 2021-22.”

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Schools on the Big Island offering distance learning options are: E.B. de Silva Elementary, Hilo Union Elementary, Holualoa Elementary, Honokaa Elementary, Honokaa High and Intermediate, Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary, Ka‘u High and Pahala Elementary, Kaumana Elementary, Keaau Elementary, Keaau High, Keaau Middle, Kealakehe Elementary, Kealakehe High, Kealakehe Intermediate, Keonepoko Elementary, Kohala Elementary, Konawaena High, Konawaena Middle, Mountain View Elementary, Naalehu Elementary, Pahoa Elementary, Pahoa High and Intermediate, Paauilo Elementary and Intermediate, Waiakea Elementary, Waiakea Intermediate, Waiakeawaena Elementary and Waikoloa Elementary/Middle.

All but two of those schools are offering asynchronous distance learning, meaning the teacher of record only grades while a responsible adult at home facilitates learning.

At Naalehu Elementary, teachers will provide instruction and learning will be synchronous or asynchronous, and at Waiakea Intermediate, teachers will provide synchronous instruction 75% of the time or more.

“Welcoming back our students to our campuses is the priority for all schools. We look forward to engaging students through in-person learning paired with programs and services of high interest, including after-school programs, athletics, clubs and other extracurricular activities,” Deputy Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami said in a statement on the DOE website. “We continue to work closely with the state Department of Health to ensure we have clear guidance and COVID-related data to inform decision-making for our schools.”

According to the DOE, the department will partner with some complex areas, including Hilo-Waiakea, to offer distance learning options where demand or capacity may be low.

“Distance learning is available at some of the Hilo-Waiakea schools as noted on the DOE website,” Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Superintendent Esther Kanehailua said in an email. “Those that are offering (the option) are working with individual families to determine if this is the right fit for the student as one of the major concerns of (distance learning) was that many students struggled.”

While a few schools are accepting geographic exceptions, space is limited, she said.

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“Principals have been and continue to be the ones working with parents who have concerns about in-person learning,” Kanehailua said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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