All Kaua‘i Complex students will receive an electronic device and be provided internet access for the upcoming school year as part of a pilot program to provide a meaningful education in a distance learning setting.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawai‘i’s students statewide were unable to return to the classroom after their spring break this past 2019-20 school year. As a result, educators finished out the academic year with online classes. Coming into the next school year, Kaua‘i will launch the Kaua‘i Education Technology Pilot Project as part of a way to adapt to the current conditions of social distancing.
On Thursday, Senate President Ronald Kouchi announced the creation of the innovative technology project to support preschool through grade 12 students in Department of Education public schools on Kaua‘i. The project was developed by former Kauaʻi Complex Area Superintendent (CAS) Bill Arakaki, and incoming CAS Paul Zina, with input from Garden Island principals and teachers.
“With little or no guidance on transitioning to 100% distance learning, Bill, Paul, school principals and teachers did the hard work necessary to first understand the needs of students and teachers and then developed a framework to execute the program,” Kouchi said. “With their innovative leadership and decisive actions, Kaua‘i students should be able to achieve a meaningful and enriching learning experience.”
Kaua‘i’s leadership determined that this initiative would have long-lasting impact if it proactively transformed teacher practices to embrace distance learning in addition to providing the hardware and technology to make it possible. To do this, Kaua‘i needed $400,500 to provide 750 students with cellular wireless Wi-Fi devices and access with the cost per student of $534 for the Wi-Fi device and internet access for 12 months. Training for Kaua‘i’s teachers and new equipment for distance learning practices, will cost $190,500.
The community-based initiative will be implemented in three phases:
Phase One will begin in August 2020 and will provide internet access, Wi-Fi hotspots, and ensure that all Kaua‘i Complex Area students have a working device.
Phase Two will overlap with Phase One, provide devices for teachers, and support teacher training which will begin in July. This phase is designed to prepare teachers for a new blended in-school and distance learning platform by the first day of school this fall. This phase will also provide a help desk to support parents.
Phase Three will implement evaluation tools and internal and external support staff beginning in the fall of 2021. This phase will be funded by the Kaua‘i Complex Area budget.
“This initiative could not have come together so quickly without the support of our community supporters and educational leaders,” said incoming Kaua‘i CAS Paul Zina. “When we identified the problem, and the cost, we knew that lack of funding might be a barrier. The issue was not as pronounced last year when this year’s budgets were drawn up. We appreciate and thank the funding partners who came together in record time to move this project forward.”
As of June 21, seven funding partners had committed and provided resources to make the Kaua‘i Education Technology Pilot Project a reality:
Atherton Family Foundation – $50,000
Bank of Hawaii Foundation- $100,000
Chan Zuckerberg Kaua‘i Community Fund – $150,000
First Hawaiian Bank – $25,000
Hawai‘i Community Foundation – $100,000
Honua Ola BioEnergy – $25,000
Senator Ron Kouchi and Joy Tanimoto Kouchi – $15,000
“Teachers have gone above and beyond to support their students throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Priscilla Chan, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “We’re grateful for their dedication and are proud to support the Kauaʻi Education Technology Pilot Project to help educators prepare for the upcoming school year and to ensure that students feel connected to their classrooms and engaged in their learning.”
The Hawai‘i Department of Education has also provided in-kind and staff support in the amount of $640,000 made possible by $16 million in federal funding that originated in the $13.2 billion federal coronavirus relief package and was intended to offset the coronavirus pandemic’s disruption to the school year.
Several legislators and organizations also provided guidance and collaboration including Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi, Rep. Nadine Nakamura, Rep. Dee Morikawa, Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, and other long-standing supporters of education on Kaua‘i.
To learn more about the Kaua‘i Education Technology Pilot Project please visit the Kaua‘i Complex Area Superintendent website: http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/ConnectWithUs/Organization/Offices/Superintendent/DeputySuperintendent/Pages/Kapaa-Kauai-Waimea-Complex-Area.aspx