Kaua‘i students go back to school

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Temporary Acting Principal Deena Fontana Moraes listens, Monday as Kilauea Elementary School Grade 2 teachers Michelle Gibson and Heather Cornell go over the plans for their classes for the remainder of the school year.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Temporary Acting Principal Deena Fontana Moraes goes over the semester plans with Kilauea Elementary School Grade 2 teachers Michelle Gibson and Heather Cornell, Monday during the school’s Teacher Work Day.

KILAUEA — Thousands of public school students return to the classrooms following the Winter Break, and the Teacher Workday, Monday.

Temporary Assigned Principal Deena Fontana Moraes of the Kilauea Elementary School is one of the new faces that will welcome students back to the classroom.

“I’m excited,” Fontana Moraes said on Monday during the Teacher Workday at the Kilauea School. “They follow the same A/B Hybrid Learning schedule as the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School. Tuesday is the ‘B’ schedule, and I’m so excited about getting to meet the students in the ‘B’ group.”

Fontana Moraes said she was hired as the TAP on Dec. 30, taking the place of Kilauea School principal Sherry Gonsalves who is on personal leave through the remainder of the school year.

“I feel so honored to have been selected for this position,” Fontana Moraes said. “I’ve been here since my hiring, and I’m thankful for Sherry spending her day getting me acquainted with the school and its programs. I just need to adjust from being a vice principal to being the school principal.”

Fontana Moraes said her focus through the remainder of the school year is to continue the amazing work attained by principal Sherry and the school’s staff and teachers.

“I’m just keeping the well-oiled machine running,” she said. “I’m just excited for this opportunity to serve the community, and get to know the Kilauea community.”

“Brian Godsill is another TAP who was hired at the same time,” Fontana Moraes said. “He is at the Kalaheo Elementary School where he is taking the place of Erik Burkman.”

The Kaua‘i Complex Area Department of Education office is also revising its Kaua‘i School Distance Learning Models through the third quarter that covers the period from Jan. 5 to March 12.

“We are making these changes due to the current COVID-19 case count and infection rate for our island,” said Paul Zina, the Kaua‘i Complex Area Superintendent in the published announcement on the Kaua‘i Public Schools website. “Our priorities remain on health and safety, reaching our most vulnerable students, and having a positive impact on our families — especially those with students in multiple schools throughout the complex area.”

The Kaua‘i Area Complex office will work with the school principals to develop plans for each school model of instruction with considerations for community-specific needs. These plans can be found on the Kaua‘i Public School Launch page at bit.ly/kauaipublicschools.

On the state level, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education is asking for help by having its staff, contracted service providers, visitors, and students completing the wellness check each morning before going to school.

The general guidelines for the wellness check include: If a child has a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, do not go to school; If a student has a sore throat, new uncontrolled cough, or difficulty breathing, diarrhea, stomach ache, vomiting, severe headache, body aches, or new loss of taste or smell, go not go to school; and if a student is in quarantine, have had close contact of within six feel or less for at least 15 minutes with someone with COVID-19, or are waiting for COVID-19 test results, do not go to school until the quarantine is complete, or are cleared by a health care provider.

At the Kaua‘i Complex Area school levels, some of the guidelines include the continued blended learning for elementary students in grades Pre-K to 5, the start of blended learning for students in secondary schools, grades 6 through 12.

Mask wearing and 6 feet of social distancing is still a requirement of all in-person learning, and full distance learning is still an option for all grades.

Schools will continue educational programming to meet identified students’ needs.

Schools may support an A/B, A/B/C, or A/B/C/D schedule depending on each school’s capacity.

“The Kaua‘i Complex Area Office will continue to work closely with state, county, and health officials to assess when students can safely return to more in-person learning as the year continues,” Zina said.

  1. Deena Fontana Moraes January 5, 2021 7:38 am Reply


    Thank you for this lovely article. I would like to clarify one slight correction. Although Kilauea is also on an A/B schedule, students here either come on Mondays, Thurdays and every other Wednesday or Tuesdays, Fridays and every other Wednesday.


    1. Tad Tamura January 5, 2021 4:35 pm Reply

      Congrats on the new job; Got out of the 6th grade in 1972 from the school; (next time get out the KAPAA Warriors t.) Aloha,

  2. Barbara Pendragon January 5, 2021 8:46 am Reply

    Shouldn’t Covid toes and possible finger symptoms be considered in children? These seem to have been left out from the general guidelines for wellness check.

  3. John Fraser January 5, 2021 9:18 pm Reply

    Starting school again is not a good idea until everyone is vaccinated against COVID. The classroom environment will spread the virus.

    1. Heather Devin January 9, 2021 3:20 pm Reply

      We are not starting school AGAIN. We have had students in school since August. We have been practicing social distancing, mask wearing, and a whole bunch of sanitizing. We only get to see our kids every other day and we assign them lessons at home on their off days. Teachers will have the opportunity to get a vaccine starting next week. So far we are doing pretty darn good!

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