KEKAHA — As of last night, Kekaha parent Sheena Leigh Figueira Galbraith has received over 1,070 signatures on her online petition called “Governor: Let Kauai’s children go to school,” which she created over a week ago.
Galbraith has three kids: fourth-grader Avenue-Leighn and twin second-graders Presley-Lyric and Monroe-Lahbelle who all attending ‘Ele‘ele Elementary School as full-time distance learners.
“I went from seeing my children so excited and happy to be back at school, seeing their old friends, meeting their new teachers to seeing sadness, frustration, and just about complete lack of motivation towards school,” Galbraith said.
Galbraith’s goal with her petition is simple.
“My overall goal is to be able to have our children back in school either following the original ‘blending learning’ model of not full-time or maybe possibly come up with other learning models,” Galbraith said.
According to Galbraith, she has been reaching out to different people, and organizations to collect more information, and data to have the support and spread awareness.
“I’ve been pushing to get as many signatures as possible, and I’ll continue to push for more while working on other things before taking it further,” Galbraith said. “In hopes of presenting it to the Mayor himself.”
Another ‘Ele‘ele Elementary School parent, Whitney Yadao, signed the petition.
“Education for our growing children is essential,” Yadao said. “I feel it is important, especially now, for them to have some type of normalcy in such a strange and confusing time. I am confident that the public education system can adapt to a safe and comfortable learning environment for our children.”
Yadao added, “In addition, they (our children, our teachers, and staff) should be first-in-line to receive funding/resources to make this happen.”
Galbraith addresses parents that choose to keep their kids safe at home with empathy.
“We all have the right to decide what is right for our children. I would just like to be given an option for parents, teachers, and unions such as myself that would prefer our children be back in school, learning, and socializing safely face-to-face,” Galbraith said.
Galbraith said a lot of teachers that prefer face-to-face learning feel they’re being supported by her and the community.
“This petition is making noise throughout the state, and we’re not breaking rules or any laws doing so, and we’re fighting peacefully for something meaningful while staying safe,” Galbraith said.
As of today, the state has over 10,000 COVID-19 cases announced, with Kaua‘i at 58 counted cases with currently no active cases being reported.
Galbraith does have concerns about the possibility that her children might be exposed to the virus should they go back to in-person models.
“Of course I’m worried,” Galbraith said. “Two out of my three children are asthmatic. But, our state still remains open while we all practice social distancing, wearing masks, and having clean hygiene. Anyone of us could catch it at any given time or place.”
She continued: “We attempted one week of blended learning, private schools have been back in session for a month, and some schools are open for lower grades, and we haven’t had an outbreak.”
Meanwhile, “We are keeping our children cooped up all day in front of a computer while we wait for ‘what if,’” Galbraith added.
The shutdown of Hawai‘i’s schools was reactionary to what was happening on Oahu, and other islands, not Kaua‘i, Galbraith said.
“Department of Education and Hawai‘i State Teacher Association originally supported the blended learning model,” Galbraith said. “What’s changed that, and made them abandon that model, and move to 100% distance learning?”
Although there are some parents whose kid’s adapt to anything and are striving with distance learning, Galbraith shares her personal struggles in hopes to bring awareness.
“You’re the parent doing what you feel is right for your children,” Galbraith said. “For parents such as myself that need, and prefer our children back in school, we’d just like to be given options also. I’m not lucky to have the help of both of my parents. I lost my mother a few years back, and my father is still working.”
She continued: “My kids are either taught by me or their other grandma but there’s a language, and education barrier being she’s from Thailand.”
Galbraith said there are so many different circumstances in each household and in each family. A lot of children need schools for different reasons. Some counted solely on school meals, some used school as their escape from their harsh realities, and some counted on their teachers/counselors to talk and run to.
Kaua‘i Complex Area Superintendent Paul Zina understands that.
“We truly understand the hardships being felt by our parents and families during this distance learning period,” Zina said. “We will continue to monitor case counts with state and county health officials following the Labor Day weekend. Early school reopening to blended learning models on any island will also require support by teachers to be successful.”
But Galbraith continues to urges parents to sign the petition.
“I’ve said this many times…the ripple effects from kids not being in school face to face will be devastating to their futures,” Galbraith said.
Petition info: http://chng.it/xL462zzg
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.