Kaua‘i Restart: Education

LIHU‘E — Hiring an educational liaison, creating neighborhood hubs, providing more devices and hot-spots for families in need are just some of the ideas to get the education system on Kaua‘i back to recovery.

A few more include creating a COVID-19 directory of services for different agencies and organizations, focusing on supporting new and existing educational programs and co-hosting a roundtable of Kaua‘i’s leadership figures.

Mason Chock, councilmember and sector lead joined the Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team (KERST), leads the Education Sector Committee in implementing six recommendations created by the committee.

“I was asked by the Office of Economic Development to facilitate a group of leaders in the education sector towards identifying Kaua‘i needs for our economic recovery,” said Chock. “I joined KERST and this committee because I am passionate about our youth and their needs, particularly throughout this difficult period of COVID-19.”

The first recommendation of the Education Sector is to improve communication with other key educational organizations by hiring or designating an education liaison.

“In some ways, being called together to work on the Economic Recovery Strategy Team highlighted the need to continue this type of dialogue and collaboration as we support education in all forms on Kaua‘i,” said Chock. “The objective of this recommendation is to continue these conversations throughout our COVID recovery and beyond by designating an education liaison.”

The second recommendation is to leverage county facilities to support education and student learning by creating “Neighborhood Hubs,” for student use.

Chock said by using spaces already available within our neighborhoods, we can connect students to support that they may need in smaller settings.

“For example, neighborhood hubs can help provide internet access and connectivity for students who do not have those resources at home,” said Chock. “ This may assist in the possibility of hybrid school schedules where students do not attend school daily.”

The third recommendation is to provide access to more devices and hot-spots to families who need them.

With distance learning being the new normal way for Kaua‘i keiki to get educated while at home, more families are in need of computers and internet service.

“As school moved quickly into a virtual environment due to COVID-19, students needed both internet access and a dedicated device,” said Chock. “This recommendation aims to provide support, equity, and access to students and their families.”

The fourth recommendation is to create a COVID-19 directory of services provided across different agencies and organizations.

According to Chock, finding available resources throughout the COVID-19 pandemic could feel overwhelming. While there was a lot of information available, it was not centrally located in one place.

“This recommendation proposes creating a comprehensive list of resources that could be used by families as well as other social services agencies and individuals who can refer specific people to these services,” said Chock. “As we create this directory, we can share these resources with our community through the new KauaiForward.com website.”

The fifth recommendation is focusing on supporting new and existing educational programs like agricultural internships and Summer Fun.

The final recommendation is co-hosting a roundtable of Kaua‘i leadership figures to discuss future plans for Kaua‘i in the post-COVID world.

Chock said the vision for the roundtable is to build on the sector team meetings and recommendations. The objectives are to inventory lessons learned from the coronavirus experience and to imagine what a more resilient and sustainable future would look like. The team-included representatives from the Department of Education, Kaua‘i Community College, native Hawaiian leaders, UH Foundation and local non-profit organizations.

Nalani Brun, county director of the Office of Economic Development agrees with Chock and goes deeper into the education team’s goal.

Brun said in this day and age, education is often about planning for a future through a crystal ball as technology causes the future to evolve at a very fast pace.

“Having a team looking at the education sector that works in conjunction with the other sector helps us to cooperatively build more certainty into what our keiki can build upon in the future,” said Brun.

She continued: “The team is trying to create the smoothest path it can that will lead to opportunities we see coming. Each of the other sectors is depending on that path to get keiki to different business sectors.”

Chock said their vision is to create a collaborative environment where individual members can come together as one team to discuss needs, ideas and areas for improvement within education.

“While the primary focus of the team as been to create short-term recommendations based on needs that surfaced due to COVID-19, the team can continue to work together on a longer-term vision for education on Kauai,” said Chock.

The Education Committee has worked closely with the Mayor’s administration to create implementation plans and prioritize the order in which we move forward on these recommendations.

“The future of Kauai is dependent on our ability to mobilize community towards a shared vision we can all invest in. With crisis comes opportunity, the KERST recommendations start the dialogue for our collective future in how we want to rebuild, so please participate and get involved,” said Chock.

Chock goes on to say that recently the county announced the online registration for the Summer Fun program that will begin on June 10 at: http://www.kauaicreation.org/wbwsc/wbsplash.html?wbp=1.

“All sector recommendations are accessible on Kauaifoward.com and we encourage the public to review and submit comments to these recommendations so we may continue to refine them,” said Chock.

For more info: Kauaiforward.com.

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Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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