LIHU‘E — County Councilmembers Mason Chock and Luke Evslin have introduced a new resolution, urging the state to reopen schools for full-time, in-person learning and allowing interscholastic sports competitions, as well as organized youth sports to resume for grades kindergarten to 12.
“As our mayor plans reopening Kaua‘i, we cannot forget our highest priority, our children’s education and well-being,” Chock said.
“This resolution is a reminder to our leadership around the state to begin the process of expanding physical exercise and in-school instruction opportunities.”
The resolution also requests that adult recreational sports resume as well. The voting of this new resolution is expected to happen at Wednesday’s council meeting.
According to Evslin, this resolution is based on guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Department of Health, all of which are urging a return to full-time, in-person education in communities with low levels of community transmission.
“While I understand the reason that schools were closed originally, there is a growing body of evidence cited by the CDC and the AAP that places with in-person education have not seen an increase in community spread and that children under 10 years old appear less likely to get infected and less likely to spread the disease to others,” Evslin said.
Evslin said the resolution is also based on the known benefits of in-person education plus the harms of remote education, such as widening educational disparities and the difficulty for parents in returning to work.
“We simply wanted to mirror the CDC, AAP and DOH advice in urging a return to in-person schooling as soon as possible for as long as our case counts remain low enough that we are within the safe metrics developed by the CDC and DOH,” Evslin said.
Evslin said he was inspired to create the resolution by his many friends who have young children. Because the council has no actual authority over the state Department of Education, the resolution merely means that they have a voice advocating on behalf of parents and students.
“I hear almost every single day of the stresses that both parents and their children are facing,” Evslin said.
“My goal here is simply to hopefully speak with a unified voice representing the community that we as a council believe that we should follow CDC, DOH and AAP recommendations and resume in-person education.”
Caroline Freudig, a first-grade teacher at Kalaheo School and the president of the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association’s Kaua‘i Chapter, said the organization is bringing the issue before the HSTA board of directors this week.
“HSTA recognizes that this is a very important issue,” Freudig said.
Meanwhile, Kaua‘i High School teacher Jon Medeiros is also a parent of two elementary-aged kids, and said that he has mixed feelings about the resolution.
“I want students to have access to all that they need,” Medeiros said. “One concern is the difficulty in teaching fully-virtual students while also teaching in-person students full time. I also have a concern with the underlining idea that simply having kids in school buildings will lead to better learning.”
Kapa‘a resident Madison Perry is a working parent with two young children, one in preschool and the other in kindergarten. She said the distance-learning model that has been in place during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for her 6-year-old and 4-year-old children, and the hybrid model that blended online and in-person learning was difficult to accommodate for working parents.
“The challenges are many, but I know I’m not alone,” Perry said. “With CDC releasing their support of full-time learning, Kaua‘i (and) Hawai‘i being within safe measures, and many educators having received their first vaccination, we have hope that our community can hopefully regain some equilibrium.”
Evslin point out the resolution up for consideration combines lessons learned from the last year.
“One of the takeaways is a reiteration of how important teachers are not only in educating our children but in addressing racial and social inequities and ensuring that we can have a thriving economy by providing safe childcare options,” Evslin said.
“And so one of the goals with this resolution is to recognize the vital importance of teachers and high-quality schools for our children and our communities.”