Kaua‘i’s new complex area superintendent reassured families that children will not be required to attend school in person when classes begin next month as local schools adopt new health and safety measures amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We realize that in the distance learning models there are a lot of uncertainties for parents,” said Paul Zina, Kapa‘a-Kaua‘i-Waimea Complex Area Superintendent during a virtual meeting to the public on July 17. “Some of those factors play into whether or not they feel comfortable enough to send their children to school.”
During the virtual meeting, Zina discussed not only what the coming school year’s curriculum would look like, but he also addressed how Kaua‘i schools will be reaching out to vulnerable learners, how the health and safety of students will be protected and the positive impact the complex hopes to have on families.
Although a lot has happened since the fourth quarter last school year, Zina said, the Kaua‘i area complex responded quickly to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Throughout all of this there is constant is change,” Zina said. “I’m absolutely confident that we’ll be able to handle these things.”
Kaua‘i District Health Officer Janet Berreman participated in the virtual meeting to discuss health and safety protocols in schools. Exactly how those are implemented, Berreman said, will look slightly different depending on the school, however, he overall guidance will from Hawai‘i State Health Department and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
These guidelines include advisement for students and staff to maintain physical distance of six feet apart and the wearing of face masks. When and where those masks are worn is to be addressed by each individual school.
Berreman added Kaua‘i schools are looking at ways to minimize the number of people students and teachers are exposed to daily, effectively creating a bubble. In the eventuality that a student tests positive for COVID-19, Zina, the principal and the teacher will be notified, as well as parents.
“The likely scenario is that all students and the teacher in the affected classroom would be instructed to quarantine at home,” Berreman said. “It’s unlikely based on one sick child we would close the school, it would likely be just one classroom.”
If there were multiple cases in one school, Berreman said, officials would address the closure of that particular campus.
When school starts Aug. 4, Zina explained many of Kaua‘i’s schools will provide a blended model of learning, allowing in-person and distance learning instruction. While students will not be penalized if their parents choose to keep them home for safety concerns, the superintendent explained students might receive less in-person support than they would get if they were in a classroom.
Part of the blended instruction includes providing additional technology support to Kaua’i Complex students.
Starting this school year, every student will be provided an electronic device as well as internet access as part of a pilot program to provide a meaningful education in a distance learning setting.
Additionally, Kaua‘i principals took initiative before the Department of Education to gather data to create a dashboard as a guide to prepare them for the school year. The tool addresses curriculum, instruction and study as well as assessment.
Kaua‘i educators will continue to build upon the dashboard.