David Adams took over as Director for the Alaka‘i O Kaua‘i Public Charter School on July 1 in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“As back to school finds itself around the corner, I thought it might be good to share a little model of education on Kaua‘i starting on Aug. 4,” Adams said. “Due to our pristine remote location in nature along with large classrooms, we will be returning to the 2020-2021 school year for on-campus, face-to-face education for our keiki — following all the guidelines, mandates, requirements, and expectations from health and government officials to ensure proper physical distancing.”
Some of the changes involved the building of outdoor educational spaces for each of the school’s classrooms.
“If you personally feel you are not comfortable with having your child return to school at this time, we certainly understand,” Adams said in a letter to parents of returning, and new students. “We would request that you contact the school to discuss various options available for your student.”
The COVID-19 guidelines have been approved by the school’s Board of Directors, and are in alignment with the Center for Disease Control guidelines for schools, the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, the Hawai‘i Department of Education, and the Hawai‘i Charter School Association.
“We feel comfortable that with strict precautions and procedures, we will be able to welcome the students back to school,” Adams said. “But we will be depending on the cooperation of families in following our reopening guidelines and practices.”
Families who travel off-island are expected to follow the current policies governing travel and the related quarantine as required by government and health officials.
Guidelines of the on-campus education plan take effect during the Back to School Orientation half days that will start on Aug. 4 and ending on Aug. 14. Alaka‘i O Kaua‘i starts its full-day education on-campus starting Aug. 17.
Additionally, the Alaka‘i board approved a bus contract with Akita Enterprises to provide transportation for students to the school located at the base of Mount Kahili. The bus route will start in Kapa‘a with several stops along the way prior to arrival at Alaka‘i School.
“Any of our student learners who ride the bus must follow the expectations of Akita Bus that is currently in effect at two people to seat, maximum,” Adams said. “They must wear a face mask.”
Other general guidelines include parents must wear a mask, and will not enter the building, or leave their vehicle during drop off or pick up of student learners.
“Due to legal restrictions, we cannot accept student learners prior to 8:15 a.m.,” Adams said. “The school’s start time is 8:45 a.m. All student learners are expected to wear a mask to enter the campus at the start of the school day, and again when they leave campus at the end of their school day as these are potentially high density traffic areas.”
Prior to the student entering campus, a staff member will take the child’s temperature and perform a health check before the learner enters the campus. Parents are requested to wait for the affirmative to attend school before leaving.
“Once cleared, the student learner will go directly to the washrooms located at the school’s entrance to wash their hands,” Adams said. “Following proper hand washing, the student will go directly to their outdoor classroom, or gym as directed by their class teacher.”
Alaka‘i School also suggests that the same parent picks up and drops off students. Additionally, elder family members such as grandparents are discouraged from pick up or drop off because of their higher risks, and to repeat, all parents and visitors to the campus need to wear face masks.
During lunch and recess, student learners will be eating their lunches in their respective outdoor and indoor classroom, and will enjoy recess on a scheduled basis to avoid mixing with other classes and grade levels.
“Physical distancing safe practices will be expected,” Adams said. “Water fountains will not be used. Instead, parents are asked to send a water bottle and make sure it goes home, daily for cleaning.”
Adams said in the event the school is mandated to close, the Off Campus Education Program will start the following school day.
Full detailed guidelines and parent expectations are available through the office, and the school’s website: alakaiokauai.org.