Teachers plead for safer conditions

  • Laurel Smith / The Garden Island

    Tuesday morning, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School teachers wave signs pleading for more support from the state Department of Education in keeping schools safe for students and teachers. “Our teachers don’t feel any support coming from (DOE). (It’s) unfortunate,” says Hawai‘i State Teachers Association President Osa Tui Jr.

LIHU‘E — Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School teachers lined the sidewalk outside of their Puhi campus Tuesday morning 6 feet apart, wearing masks, modeling a safety precaution that is all-but-impossible inside their full classrooms.

Their message was clear: Students and staff deserve safer schools.

Several motorists honked and waved back with a shaka of support.

James Dingus, eighth-grade social-studies teacher and parent of two elementary-school students, sign-waved Tuesday because he wants better lines of communication between teachers and the state Department of Education.

“Last school year, there was communication that happened, but this year, there hasn’t been very much at all,” Dingus said. “If people work together, amazing things can happen. But when people try to work in isolation, it’s just much more difficult.”

Teachers are concerned that the rollout of the new in-school COVID-19 testing program will not be available at all schools.

“It is a matter of if the school is willing to hold (in-school testing) or not,” said Hawai‘i State Teachers Association President Osa Tui Jr. “A school might not be willing to do it because they don’t have the personnel. But testing on our school campuses we think is of vital importance.”

School staff members are struggling with the extra workload they have taken on this year.

Seventh-grade science teacher Sarah Kern described her workload as “horrible.”

“I was talking to a colleague the other day,” Kern said. “We’ve had to add on caffeine in the evenings, instead of just in the mornings, because teachers are just exhausted with providing that extra work to the students who have to quarantine. And it’s a lot of extra work.”

She estimates that providing work for students in quarantine adds between one and four hours per student in quarantine to her workweek.

Teachers are asking for safer conditions and want schools to remain open for in-person learning.

“HSTA doesn’t want schools to close,” said Tui. “We just want schools to have the flexibility to do what’s right and what’s necessary for their communities. Our teachers want to be with students and are happy to be with students, but we want it to be done safely.”

Similar sign-holding took place with the red-shirted HSTA members at other schools on the island, including Wilcox, Tuesday.

This story was updated at 9:05 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29 to clarify testing programs at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.


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

  1. Anahola Paul September 29, 2021 4:15 am Reply

    Hawai‘i State Teachers Association President Osa Tui Jr….”What do you propose? Are you looking for COVID testing in the classroom? What works for our teachers? Teachers and Students need to be safe; I get that…but what do you propose?

  2. Rev Dr Malama September 29, 2021 6:30 am Reply

    How absolutely APPALLING that our Community would allow the state of Hawaii to treat our teachers and their precious students with less regard than EVER!!!

    In many history books and geography studies, we can and some of us have read that teachers were and are revered as the most valuable contributors to our future generations and stability in our community…..
    I support and encourage teachers to do whatever it takes to restore their schools to a safe and responsible environment….

    This is a protest against insanity!

    Anti intelligence is ruining the minds and distorting the lives of our local people who are so misunderstood, misled and drugged into early death out of desperation and despondency from the police state of martial law that has been used against us to apparently allow the elite to displace local people and ruin our infrastructure even more!!!

  3. George Ho September 29, 2021 6:48 pm Reply

    End the hysteria. Herd immunity. If the clueless followed the ACTUAL science this wouldn’t be a rambling story.

    1. MamaTree September 30, 2021 6:23 pm Reply

      Amen, Mr. Ho, and boo hoo, HSTA. All teachers can get vaccinated if you want it or if you want to keep your cushy job. Get back to work already and earn the FULL pay / vacay that you continuously received in 2020-21 when you weren’t teaching in person at all this time last year, and then not even teaching 50% of the students in-person until January 2021 (plus your work schedule was relatively easy because you taught the same material twice a week to two separate groups of students). We will never forget your “time off” last year, even though you clearly have. Maybe that’s why you need so much caffeine now — time to wake up and get back to work, HSTA / DOE / CAS Zina . . .

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