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Friday, July 2, 2021
BOE chair says board will consider distance learning options
By News Release @ 8:15 PM :: 1987 Views :: Education K-12, COVID-19

BOE chair says board will consider distance learning options

Incoming HSTA president says HIDOE needs to be more proactive

News Release from HSTA, July 2, 2021

The Hawaii Board of Education chair said Thursday the board will discuss distance learning options for next school year at its next meeting on July 15, just a little more than two weeks before most public school students are scheduled to return to class.

Speaking during the Insights on PBS Hawaii program Thursday evening, BOE Chair Catherine Payne said, “We have gotten a lot of testimony and letters to the board from families and parents who are asking for us to have some kind of (distance learning) option in our system.”

“I have spoken to the superintendent over the last few months about the need to have some kind of options for parents, not at every school, we understand that there are difficulties at some schools with staffing. Certainly within complexes there should be options available for specific situations. We still have four out of ten people in our community who have not been vaccinated. All of our elementary children have not been vaccinated,” Payne added.

“My concern is that if we don’t have some sort of option and we aren’t prepared to provide options, then we could be in the same situation of not being ready for whatever comes up,” she said. “Certainly the best place for children to learn is in the classroom.”

HIDOE needs to make sure that the distance learning option “is available for all students who really, really need it. And that we don’t just have the default of going to home schooling if we can’t be accommodated in the way we’re doing it in our school,” Payne said.

Previously, outgoing Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has said students will have to return to schools for instruction in the fall, leaving principals to decide whether they can offer some distance learning options without centralized coordination from the HIDOE administration. Kishimoto declined to appear on Thursday night’s Insights program. Her term as superintendent ends on July 30, days before students are scheduled to return to classes on Aug. 3.

Osa Tui, Jr., who becomes president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association on Monday, said during the Insights program, “To be in the summer and debating, like, ‘What shall we do for the beginning of the school year?’ It’s really disappointing. We have parents who are rightfully worried that they don’t want to send their students” back to campuses.”

“If a classroom has only three students who don’t want to come this year or five. That’s going to be hard to set that up for that one school because the department has said, ‘Well, call your school and see what they’re going to do about it,’” Tui said.

The HIDOE “can coordinate these things, I mean we are one statewide system,” he added.

The state could take the smaller numbers of students in each class who don’t want to attend school in person and pool them together and have them taught by Hawaii educators in virtual classrooms, something that could be coordinated by complex, he said.

“One of our charter schools, Hawaii Technology Academy, they’re just growing by leaps and bounds,” Tui said.

He said HIDOE should use hundreds of millions in federal stimulus money now to increase statewide distance learning capacity.

“A lot of teachers would love that opportunity to be able to teach in these innovative new ways and students all across the state could be able to access it from Ka’u or Hana,” Tui said. “This technology allows so many new things. This is the chance now to try and explore those things.”

Tui: Forcing all students to return to in-person learning could have ‘drastic’ budget effects

Forcing parents to send their children back to in-person learning is not prudent, Tui said.

“When the parents say, ‘Nope, I don’t want to do that, I’m going to pull my kid out,’ that’s going to have drastic effects on the school and their budget. Their budgets are going to shrink and they’re going to lose teachers and what we want is to have qualified teachers in every classroom in front of every student and that’s going to be jeopardized if we continue down this path,” Tui added.

The state’s weighted student formula gives each school a per-pupil amount of money based on their enrollment.

In response, Payne said, “We need to think about how we can hui people together within a complex. I do believe some of this is going on already. I’m just very disturbed by the all or nothing, if you don’t want to do what we’re doing then you have to do home schooling because I feel we have a responsibility for all our children and we have to make sure that we bring them back into our system.”

“That’s going to be a really good discussion over the next couple of months,” Payne said.

“It’s not just looking at this money. It’s really looking at what we need to do long-term and in our systems. How would we change our systems to support the innovation?” she added. “We haven’t really shifted the systems so this can happen.”

Tui said having educators teach both in-person and online students simultaneously does not work well for keiki or teachers.

“Our teachers want to be with their students. But what they also want is to be able to focus on their students in their class or to focus on students who are online. The hard part for them this past year is trying to juggle teaching students both online and in the classroom at the same time. And that really has done nothing for anybody,” Tui said.

Tui says teacher stabilization payments, job-embedded PD essential to retain educators

In May, the Hawaii state Legislature unanimously approved $2,200 payments to teachers statewide, using federal stimulus funds to stabilize the teaching force, as many states and school districts have done across the country. Gov. David Ige has threatened to veto that proposal.

“Our schools are quality when we have quality teachers. And we need some sort of workforce stabilization to make sure that who we have now, qualified teachers will remain and will want to remain and people will want to come to this profession,” Tui said.

“If we don’t have that, the poorest of the students …. they’re the ones who suffer the most, because they have this influx of teachers coming in and out, in and out, in and out. So we really have to make sure that we attract and retain quality educators,” he added.

“The state right now is not even funding the additional professional development hours that we have. And so basically, in this upcoming school year, our teachers are going to have smaller paychecks because all that professional development is being taken away and not funded for now. And so hopefully the Board of Ed may be able to do something about that later,” Tui said.

Watch the Insights on PBS Hawaii episode, which besides Tui and Payne featured Aiea Intermediate School Principal Alisa Bender and HawaiiKidsCAN Executive Director David Miyashiro.



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