Kauai elementary schools back to in-person learning

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Elaine Kakuda and her fourth grade class at the Koloa Elementary School.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Elaine Kakuda’s Grade 4 class is socially distant and protected at the Koloa Elementary School, Monday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Koloa Elementary School principal Leila Maeda-Kobayashi checks on the social distancing setup in the school’s cafeteria, Monday.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    At lunchtime, the kindergarten class at King Kaumual‘i Elementary School is sitting six feet apart while watching a cartoon show on the big screen to help with their full in-person learning transition.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    King Kaumualiʻi Elementary School’s principal Jason Yoshida test their new hand sanitizer device that also takes an individual’s temperature at the same time.

HANAMA‘ULU — King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School’s Principal Jason Yoshida said they had 466 students returning to face-to-face learning with approximately 100 students still selecting distance learning yesterday.

“We just finished our assembly, so we are going to talk to each grade level, welcoming them back,” Yoshida said. “We are happy to see them and we want to make sure that when we return, we follow our safety protocols and mitigation strategies. But the classrooms are filled now. And the kids are happy to be back and we’re prepared for them.”

Yoshida said they started really early in the pandemic and set school guidelines and protocols in a clear and manageable fashion.

“So what we did was, we designated if you walk around our campus, we started with making sure that we had 6 feet distance,” Yoshida said. “So one of the things that we have trained our students, if you walk outside, you’ll see dots all over campus. In our cafeteria, we sit them in the 6 feet distance that was appropriate. So the kids are trained, the teachers are trained. Now with this movement towards more face-to-face, we had to make some adjustments.

“But our school community has been so supportive with mass wearing. So the most important mitigation strategy right now is mask-wearing and washing their hands,” he said.

Another way the school has kept their staff and students safe is by installing a $200 hand sanitizer device that checks temperature at the same time. This device can be found in different places on King K’s campus, like in the office, library and cafeteria.

Besides having extra empty classes ready for any overflow of students, the library at King K is another backup plan ready to go. For now, it is used by the online learning teacher, according to Yoshida.

Yoshida also said lunchtime for each grade level is staggered and after-school pick up is also staggered to keep everyone safe and on time.

Azalea Butac, a kindergartner, took a moment to express how she felt about returning back to school in person.

“I’m excited, cause I love school,” Butac said. “I love my friends and my teachers.”

Stacie Cantu has been working as a kindergarten teacher for 25 years, and she said she enjoyed her first day back with her students.

“I love it,” Cantu said. “I was excited and so happy that we’re all together once again.”

Koloa Elementary School Principal Leila Kobayashi said her school started its face-to-face learning on March 22 with 315 students on campus and 35 students at home learning online.

“It was like the first day of school — the first day of school jitters, all of the kids were super excited,” Kobayashi said. “One parent came up to me and said ‘he couldn’t sleep the night before, he was so excited.’ For the kids, it has been really good.”

Kobayashi’s school was the pillar for other schools to get information on how they started their safety strategies and the decision to open early was one her teachers and staff made together.

“We’ve been doing staggered business — going to keep them all separate,” Kobayashi said. “It helps with the traffic too of course, but it’s been a learning experience for sure. Try it one day — oh that didn’t work let’s fix this. We learned our bell schedule is all off, so we do a PA announcement, it really helps to keep people on time. We will also get our barriers in for our cafeteria today and do a barrier party after school.”

Elaine Kakuda, a fourth-grade teacher at Koloa, goes into detail about her first day back with her students.

“Overwhelming,” Kakuda said. “But the kids were so excited to be back, kind of like the beginning of school just getting to know each other, they are doing really well.”


Stephanie Shinno, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

  1. JB April 6, 2021 6:05 am Reply

    So we can sit at a restaurant with no masks as long as we’re six feet apart from other tables, but school kids (sitting by themselves) must wear a mask and have a shield on their desk, despite following social distancing. I just can’t imagine being a child today.

    I wondered what the hell our last president was talking about when he said we can’t let the cure be worse than the disease… now I know.

    1. Mailman Mike April 6, 2021 9:39 am Reply

      I totally agree.

  2. John April 6, 2021 8:29 am Reply

    I hope nobody ever forgets that HSTA (the local teacher’s union) and the HI DOE fought tooth and nail to keep Kauai schools closed through the rest of this year (2021) just so that they could continue to give themselves a paid stay-at-home vacation.

    It was only through the strong, vocal persistence of Kauai’s working-class parents that the schools begrudgingly re-opened. Even though students only get one more month of actual learning before summer holiday, it’s great to see all our keiki so happy again after nearly a year of miserable distance learning.

  3. Kalaheo April 6, 2021 8:51 am Reply

    When will the intermediate and high schools follow suit? It is the right time to open the schools back up 100%.

  4. Mailman Mike April 6, 2021 9:42 am Reply

    Defund the DOE and “cancel” the teacher’s union.

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