LIHU‘E — Amie Igaya was walking around Kukui Grove Center Thursday afternoon with her children, still unsure of what the coming days will bring.
A mother of three, her kids span elementary to high-school age. She’s remaining optimistic, but needs to be realistic.
“It’s going to be challenging,” Igaya said.
Monday, the state Department of Education Kaua‘i Complex Area is scheduled to start its 2020-21 school year much like the way it ended. After an initial orientation week with students and teachers together in classrooms, the next few weeks will be nearly 100% distance-learning.
“To support our many multigenerational households and the unique needs of our community, Kaua‘’i has taken a proactive approach to planning for health and safety in schools and throughout our island,” KCA Superintendent Paul Zina said in a recent statement.
The blended-learning model is split into three stages. During the first, from between Aug. 17 to 20, students will physically return to campus on a coordinated and scheduled basis, at most schools determined by last name or household.
“(This schedule) has helped us continue the success we have experienced with our pandemic-related response as an island. In addition to this, to address the increasing pandemic-related withdrawals from school and increasing parent requests for full distance learning, we will be moving to a hybrid model in all Kaua‘i schools as we reopen school year 2020-21,” Zina said.
This first week, students and teachers will connect, receive training on distance learning and gain access to the technology they may not have. School cafeterias will also host grab-and-go-style meals for students, as dine-in services will not be allowed.
During the second phase, Aug. 24 through Sept. 11, full distance-learning will be implemented. Staff will be at designated work sites, and special-education services that cannot be performed through distance learning will be available.
For these four weeks, superintendents across the state will be evaluating next steps.
“We appreciate the ability and authority given by (state DOE) Superintendent (Christina) Kishimoto and Governor Ige to address reopening school needs by county and complex area,” Zina said.
But this announcement to go distance-learning sent some parents and guardians reeling, wondering how their students would learn without physical instruction, socialization, and potentially without them being home to help.
Zhanelle Valenzuela was watching her younger cousin while his parents, both nurses, worked Thursday afternoon.
“It’s such a controversial issue,” Valenzuela said. “His parents are very strict, so they chose full distance learning.”
Valenzuela said some people aren’t lucky enough to have the choice to keep their kids home in the middle of a pandemic.
The County of Kaua‘i issued Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to support the Boys &Girls Club of Hawai‘i to run a child-care program for school-aged children in Kapa‘a, Waimea and Lihu‘e,” a county spokesperson said.
The keywords are “school-aged children.” For many licensed child-care facilities, their licenses specify age range. And because of social-distancing laws, most child-care facilities can only offer up to six spots in their programs.
“At this time, the county does not foresee operating its own child-care program, but we are working closely with the Department of Education and stand ready to assist and support where we are able — particularly in the area of providing facilities and/or internet access for students in need,” a county spokesperson said Friday.
PATCH (People Attentive To Children) is a statewide child-care-referral service for licensed child-care operators. This could be for ages up to 15. Referral specialists can assist in finding child care. Some spaces are still available in many parts of the island.
Igaya spent Thursday with her kids, doing some light back-to-school shopping. Luckily, she works at the same school her youngest son, Caelan, attends, so she’s mostly able to care for her kids when they’re at home.
While she appreciates face-to-face learning, she’s keeping an open mind.
“It’s scary sending my kids to school during the pandemic,” Igaya said. “We’ll just see from there.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.