Remote Hawaiian immersion option 2 months into school year

HONOLULU — Hawaii education officials have launched a distance learning program for Hawaiian language immersion students — two months in the school year.

The Hawaiian Immersion Distance Learning Program started this week with 49 students and officials plan to accommodate another 200 students — if they can find the teachers, Hawaii Public Radio reported.

The state Department of Education is recruiting Hawaiian-speaking teachers, but finding qualified teachers who speak the language was a challenge even before the pandemic, according to Kauʻi Sang, head of the Office of Hawaiian Education, which oversees the state’s Hawaiian Language Immersion Program.

About 75% percent of the teachers needed for the distance learning program have been hired, Sang said.

Even though many Hawaii public schools students have been learning remotely during the pandemic, distance learning options were only in English.

That forced Hawaiian immersion parents to send their children to school amid the pandemic or enroll in distance learning in English, said Kananinohea Mākaʻimoku, who serves on the board of a statewide network of Hawaiian immersion parents and teachers who helped lobby Sang’s office for the distance learning program.

It’s not enough to simply translate English curriculum for distance learning, but Hawaiian needs to be the foundation of the curriculum, Mākaʻimoku said.

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