The Hawai‘i State Teachers Association (HSTA) was joined by two more unions on Wednesday in its opposition to the Hawai‘i’ Department of Education’s (HIDOE) plan to reopen public schools beginning Aug. 4.
The Hawai‘i Government Employees Association (HGEA) and United Public Workers (UPW) also urged the state and its Board of Education to delay the opening of school buildings to students out of concern for the safety of all involved amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Combined, the three groups represent all bargaining unit employees on public school campuses.
- UPW represents custodians, cafeteria workers, skilled trades workers, school physical therapist aides, and occupational therapy assistants.
- HGEA represents principals, vice principals, athletic directors, athletic health trainers, cafeteria managers, educational assistants, security attendants, special services personnel, school health assistants, school custodian supervisors, and clerical staff.
- HSTA represents teachers, librarians, counselors, and registrars.
“We do not feel … HIDOE and the Hawai‘i Department of Health have done enough to properly create and implement health strategies to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on our public school campuses,” the groups said in a joint press release.
The release contended that school buildings and facilities will not be safe for children and staff until the following steps have been completed:
- The DOH provides written guidance on the reopening of school buildings.
- All faculty and staff are properly trained and provided sufficient supplies, equipment, and protocols to ensure facilities are kept clean and faculty, staff, and students are safe.
“We have a critical obligation to our communities to take every step and precaution necessary to ensure the safety of our students and members as we reopen schools,” the release continued.
HIDOE and BOE officials have said in recent days that August is a safe time to reopen schools as Hawai‘i’s coronavirus metrics are among the best, or the best, in the nation. They added that a return next month is vital in the event that the reopening of mass tourism forces schools back to a distance-learning format.
Officials also said that all necessary guidance is available in HIDOE’s Health & Safety Handbook.