‘Outside the box’

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The staff, including The Koloa Early School Director Mandie Gibson, standing center, shows off one of the banners that will fly August 3 when the preschool re-opens to new, pandemic-motivated rules and guidelines.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Measuring instruments are in place to fence off the grassy area that will provide additional outdoor space for The Koloa Early School.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The Koloa Early School Director Mandie Gibson shows off one of the teacher carts containing health and safety supplies designed to minimize staff movements in one of the socially-distanced classrooms.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The Koloa Early School Director Mandie Gibson shows the new playground, courtesy of the Rotary Club of Po‘ipu Beach, that anchors the downstairs outdoor area at TKES.

KOLOA — The Koloa Early School board President Ronalee Eckberg said she’ll be waving banners August 3 when doors to the preschool reopen.

“We’re so happy,” Eckberg said. “We’ll all be here with signs and cheering to welcome students and parents. We missed them.”

TKES, along with other schools and child-care facilities, shut down in March with the arrival of the novel coronavirus to Hawai‘i.

“Closing caused us to think outside the box,” said Mandie Gibson, TKES director. “The result is all the good things that happened while we prepared to reopen.”

Students and parents will return to five pages of guidelines and recommendations governing life in the world turned topsy-turvy by the COVID-19 and its volumes of rules, mandates and guidelines. These have been mailed off to prospective student families, and copies are available at the school’s office.

Headlining these rules are the mandatory face masks, and hand sanitizing before entering the school facility during its operating hours of 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

“The teachers — we kept the same staff for quality of care — are required to wear face masks and shields during the entire day,” Gibson said. “And we just installed hand sanitizers at the main entrance and in the extended lanai where students will enjoy lunch and snacks. Everyone needs to sanitize before and after coming in.”

Classroom size also changes under the new governing rules.

“The schedule changes — No longer is it going to be everyone inside, everyone outside,” Gibson said. “Instead, our groups are set up with the ratio of one teacher and nine students. Each of these groups will be separated, with groups rotating so no one is collected all in one place.”

Classrooms are also social-distance marked with spacing markers on the floors and play stations clearly separated by dividers created by TKES staff.

“We’re finishing the outdoor lanai area where everyone will do lunch and snack,” Gibson said. “It already has the sanitizer installed, and there will be an outdoor sink placed once everything is done.”

A new playground, courtesy of the Rotary Club of Po‘ipu Beach, anchors one of two outdoor play areas that have been repainted and spruced up for health and safety.

“We’re also going to have a second outdoor area — the grassy area fronting the parking area that is going to be fenced in to give the students more outdoor playing area,” Gibson said. “Today is cubby day, when students come in with their supplies and find out where their cubby holes are. Parents get briefed on what is happening. We’re ready. The teachers are excited, the staff is working hard, and we can’t wait.”

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