HSTA requests bargaining to address safety in schools

LIHU‘E — The Hawai‘i State Teachers Association voiced the concerns that conditions in schools are unsafe for both staff and students in an open letter to state and education officials this week.

According to the letter, “health and safety guidelines, including proper masking and social distancing, go unenforced in our schools. Reporting and notification remain inconsistent. A lack of personal protective equipment, improper ventilation, and other outstanding issues are not being addressed.”

The union held a virtual press conference yesterday featuring HSTA president Osa Tui, Jr., who said principals also share in educator frustrations as they try and juggle additional duties without support.

“Our teachers are trying their hardest to keep their students as safe as possible, but it is a herculean task that has been placed upon their shoulders,” Tui said. “And the frustration is overwhelming.”

The state’s Department of Education website is updated weekly with COVID-19 data, but HSTA wants to see that information available daily.

“We find it concerning that the department puts it out on Friday afternoon. You know one of those Friday afternoon news dumps that they don’t want people to know,” Tui said.

Union members also questioned the accuracy of the information on the site.

“A lot of our members are saying, ‘Hey, we had a case earlier this week and it is not even listed on there,’” Tui said. Other errors on the website included mislabeling schools on incorrect islands, increasing skepticism about the data.

HSTA hopes that a collective bargaining agreement can lead to a more consistent response and reporting process.

Lisa Morrison, HSTA secretary-treasurer and Maui High arts and communication teacher, expressed concern that administrators are making decisions regarding quarantine without the benefit of seeing the interactions that happen in a classroom throughout the day.

“As a teacher myself, I know that my seating chart does not reveal everything that happens within my classroom, so even though the administrators are the ones being tasked with identifying quarantine and close contacts, it’s going to happen inconsistently from school to school and from classroom to classroom,” Morrison said.

However, the union is not asking for a full return to distance learning. “No, that is not going to be the right thing,” says Tui. “But we have to have safety protocols in place. Right now, the Department of Education makes all the rules with regards to what in the health and safety guidance. And if something doesn’t go right we have nothing to hold them accountable to.”

Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi responded with this statement:

“In-person learning is the best education model for successful student outcomes, and we are confident that our schools provide a safe environment for students and staff.

“It is our duty and responsibility to keep our schools open for students who need us not only for in-person learning, but for socialization, services tied to mental health, and even meals.”

The full statement can be found below.

•••

Laurel Smith, staff writer and photographer can be reached at 245-0424 or lsmith@thegardenisland.com.​

FULL STATMENT

In-person learning is the best education model for successful student outcomes, and we are confident that our schools provide a safe environment for students and staff.

It is our duty and responsibility to keep our schools open for students who need us not only for in-person learning, but for socialization, services tied to mental health, and even meals. But we cannot do this alone.

Our schools are doing everything within their control to diligently implement the core essential strategies set by the state Department of Health, and evidence so far shows that these efforts are working. While community transmission levels have increased, we have no known cases of students getting sick with COVID-19 as a result of coming to school and there is no evidence indicating our schools are amplifiers of transmission.

Using multiple mitigation measures consistently and in combination gives schools the flexibility to achieve safe learning environments even when not every mitigation measure can be applied. The core essential strategies schools are implementing consistently are: promoting vaccinations for staff and eligible students, staying home when ill, consistent and correct masking, and proper hand hygiene. Cohorting, physical distancing, improving ventilation, and cleaning and disinfection, meanwhile, are additional mitigation strategies to be applied in combination to the greatest extent possible.

This guidance has been set by the state Department of Health, based on the best available evidence and in collaboration with such organizations as the American Academy of Pediatrics-Hawaii Chapter, Hawaii Keiki Nurses, the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools and others. It is also aligned with the CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools.

— Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi

3 Comments
  1. RGLadder37 August 19, 2021 1:44 pm Reply

    Maybe that student dropped out of high school his senior year. Some of them get placed in special education. Which is a flunk out class in itself. They just pass time there until school is over. I am wondering how many of them are writing to you about another person.


  2. RGLadder37 August 19, 2021 1:57 pm Reply

    These students were special Ed. Useless. Bernard P. Carvalho jr, Mason Chock, Derek Kawakami, Billy Decosta, and few others I cannot think of yet.

    Take up space and no need study.


  3. RGLadder37 August 19, 2021 2:29 pm Reply

    I’m for the first amendment right. But the antagonistic approach. Not accept liberals and left wing failures like sports athletes in politics. So I’ll name the failures and why they are failures. If you’ll be the writer. On HSTA


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