LIHU‘E — Bill Arakaki is among the educators reimagining traditional educational models in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has developed the Kaua‘i Education Technology Pilot Project, alongside incoming Complex Area Superintendent Paul Zina, with input from Garden Isle principals and teachers.
Several legislators and organizations also provided guidance and collaboration including Senate President Ronald Kouchi, Rep. Nadine Nakamura, Rep. Dee Morikawa, Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, and other long-standing supporters of education on Kaua‘i.
“With little or no guidance on transitioning to 100% distance learning, Bill, Paul, school principals, and teachers did the hard work necessary to first understand the needs of students and teachers and then developed a framework to execute the program,” said Senate President Kouchi. “With their innovative leadership and decisive actions, Kaua‘i students should be able to achieve a meaningful and enriching learning experience.”
The community-based initiative will be implemented in three phases:
• Phase One will begin in August 2020 and will provide internet access, Wi-Fi hotspots, and ensure that all Kaua‘i Complex Area students have a working device.
• Phase Two will overlap with Phase One, provide devices for teachers, and support teacher training which will begin in July. This phase is designed to prepare teachers for a new blended in school and distance learning platform by the first day of school this fall. This phase will also provide a help desk to support parents.
• Phase Three will implement evaluation tools and internal and external support staff beginning in the fall of 2021. This phase will be funded by the Kaua‘i Complex Area budget.
Kaua‘i’s leadership determined that this initiative would have a long-lasting impact if it proactively transformed teacher practices to embrace distance learning in addition to providing the hardware and technology to make it possible. To do this, Kaua‘i needed $400,500 to provide 750 students with cellular wireless Wi-Fi devices and access with the cost per student of $534 for the Wi-Fi device and internet access for 12 months. Training for Kaua‘i’s teachers and new equipment for distance learning practices will cost $190,500.
As of June 21, seven funding partners have committed and provided resources to make the Kaua‘i Education Technology Pilot Project a reality:
Atherton Family Foundation – $50,000 Bank of Hawaii Foundation- $100,000 Chan Zuckerberg Kaua‘i Community Fund – $150,000 First Hawaiian Bank – $25,000 Hawai‘i Community Foundation – $100,000 Honua Ola BioEnergy – $25,000 Senator Ron Kouchi and Joy Tanimoto Kouchi – $15,000
“Teachers have gone above and beyond to support their students throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Priscilla Chan, of Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “We’re grateful for their dedication and are proud to support the Kauaʻi Education Technology Pilot Project to help educators prepare for the upcoming school year and to ensure that students feel connected to their classrooms and engaged in their learning.”
The Hawai‘i Department of Education has also provided in-kind and staff support in the amount of $640,000 made possible by $16 million in federal funding that originated in the $13.2 billion federal coronavirus relief package and was intended to offset the coronavirus pandemic’s disruption to the school year.