Survey seeks input from families about distance learning

LIHU‘E — A nonprofit organization created for parents, educators and policymakers for public schools in Hawai‘i is looking for parents statewide to fill out an online survey by Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i, founded in 2010, is trying to gather data on how Hawai‘i parents and their children were impacted by the new education policies and systems.

Ita Rubio, a kindergarten teacher at St. Catherine School in Kapa‘a, has two children — daughter Victoria Kekua Rubio, a pre-K student, and son Makoa Rubio-Cummings, a fifth-grader — who attend St. Catherine and have been attending in-person classes for the past six weeks.

“It’s been great. He did not do well online,” Rubio said. “He really missed his friends, and he learns best when he is in the classroom. Online learning doesn’t work for all kids.”

Rubio said she is prepared to be online should it be necessary, and has faced some obstacles since school started.

“It’s definitely had its challenges with social distancing, wearing a mask and constant cleaning, but the students have adjusted to wearing a mask,” Rubio said.

“Basically, we stay with our own class all day. We don’t mix with the other classes, and that, I would say, has been challenging, because we are so used to collaborating with other classes, including our big buddy-little buddy reading partners we are not able to do this at this time.”

Rubio’s colleague, preschool Director Ginger Otto, chimed in with her experiences on campus so far with her students. “From my perspective, as a preschool teacher, I am grateful we are able to be together doing face-to-face teaching,” said Otto. “I am especially grateful it has been determined masks are not healthy for keiki 5 and under. So aside from extra cleaning and sanitizing it has been my goal to keep the overall school experience as close to normal as we possibly can for our children, and keep that balance between their emotional/social health as well as their physical health. It’s heartbreaking to hear of schools in the mainland forcing social distancing on 3- and 4-year-olds. I don’t feel it’s right,” she continued. Otto said preschool is about 80% developing social-emotional skills that simply wouldn’t be attainable through a screen.

Shantell Rego’s son, Skyler Rego, is a third-grader at Wilcox Elementary School who is doing distance learning at his grandparents’ house.

“I am fortunate to have my in-laws who allow Skyler to stay at their house while he does distance learning,” Rego said.

“I am fortunate that he is able to self-direct himself to be online at the times he needs to be, and he also is able to finish his homework majority of the time without me assisting him.”

But like Rubio, Rego faced some challenges while her son learned from home.

“I cannot see what the class day is like or even if he needs help with any of his homework,” Rego said. “I am hoping that with this distance learning they are still capable of learning the same amount of what they would be during the in-class time.”

The PPS Hawai‘i team hopes the survey will provide insights into how the organization might provide assistance, as well as inform its programming and advocacy efforts.

PPS Hawai‘i said with parents facing an extended period of pandemic-induced changes there is a level of concern they feel about a number of issues unique to the start of the school year.

The questions asked reflect comments and experiences shared within the organization, including COVID-19 health and safety, access to digital technology and information, and challenges students may be experiencing with virtual learning.

“We want our members and all parents and families who are coping with the complex issues around educating during the pandemic to know that their perspective is valued,” said Lois Yamaguchi, board president of PPS Hawai‘i.

The PPS Hawai‘i survey can be accessed at, its Facebook page, or at


Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or


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