Back to school during a pandemic?

Jasmine Rossiter, News

With quarter one coming to an end, many students and parents are skeptical about the plans for quarter two, which starts on Monday, Oct. 12. 

In a press statement released on Thursday, Sept. 17, the Hawaii State Department of Education said that decision-making for the second quarter, which runs from Oct. 12 to Dec. 18, “can begin and will be done at the complex area level.”

Kalani Leo reached out to Complex Area Superintendent Rochelle Mahoe for comment but she didn’t respond in time for publication. 

However, in a letter to principals, teachers, staff, students, and families on Monday, Sept. 28, Mahoe announced that all schools will begin the second quarter continuing with distance learning.

“…we will slowly and gradually phase in the number of students returning to campus,” Mahoe wrote.    

Students at Kalani use Google Classroom to navigate the work for their classes. Some students have seven different classes to keep track of digitally. As we come to an end with quarter one, students say they are either struggling to raise their grades or doing better than ever before. Photo by Jasmine Rossiter 2020.

On Thursday, Aug. 13, the highest number of COVID cases was recorded at 354 for that day alone; this was a week and a half before Kalani High School started distance learning. Since then, positive cases have mostly remained 100 or higher.

However, recent decreasing numbers sparked an interest in schools to follow their original schedule of hybrid learning. This means that half of the students would be assigned a color — red or white — and would be on campus for in-class learning while the other half remained in distance learning at home; this schedule would rotate within groups every two days. 

With no surprise, students, parents, and teachers have expressed concerns about this plan. 

“First, I want to advocate for the health and safety of our Kalani students, faculty, and school staff,” Kyle Yamaguchi, a history teacher at Kalani High School expresses. “Distance and hybrid education can’t be accomplished without a healthy, learning environment at home or school.  Secondly, I personally feel that the students who need the face to face learning should have priority to return to campus. Students who are thriving in distance learning should have an option to remain at home.”

Whether it be teachers, students, or staff members, many say they will come home to family members who have the possibility of getting sick due to fragile health and increased exposure. This is a sticky situation as there are different factors that play into the pros and cons. 

“My main concern is students not following COVID safety protocols outside of the school and then coming to school and infecting a whole bunch of people,” Noelani Barfield (10) expresses. “I understand that the school is putting safety protocols in place to help protect the students, but students are sneaky, they will find ways to do things without the teacher seeing. Students who are not taking COVID protocol seriously will do something damaging and will put so many people in danger.”