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Wednesday, March 18, 2020
DoE Closes Schools Until April 7 After HSTA Files Grievance over COVID Plan
By News Release @ 8:00 PM :: 710 Views :: Education K-12, Health Care, Labor

HIDOE employees to begin remote work March 19, schools to close March 30

HIDOE will close its offices except for essential functions effective Thursday, March 19. Schools will close March 30 following the extension of spring break

News Release from Hawaii DoE, 18-Mar-2020

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will close its offices except for essential functions effective Thursday, March 19. Schools will close March 30 following the extension of spring break. Employee return dates will be staggered. Students are anticipated to return to school April 7. HIDOE employees will be working remotely and those who need to perform duties at a campus or office during this period will be limited to those tasks before returning to their telework arrangement.

The Department will be meeting internally and with key stakeholders today to finalize logistics. Additional details will be made public at a press conference Thursday. Media requests for information and interviews will be declined until then.

Media Advisory

UPDATE March 19, 2020: HIDOE extends school closures, implements remote work to maintain essential functions

 *   *   *   *   *

Latest update from HSTA

From HSTA, Wednesday, March 18, 2020

HIDOE employees to begin remote work March 19, public schools to close March 30

Just in from the Hawaii State Department of Education:

"The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will close its offices except for essential functions effective Thursday, March 19. Schools will close March 30 following the extension of spring break. Employee return dates will be staggered. Students are anticipated to return to school April 7. HIDOE employees will be working remotely and those who need to perform duties at a campus or office during this period will be limited to those tasks before returning to their telework arrangement. The Department will be meeting internally and with key stakeholders today to finalize logistics. Additional details will be made public at a press conference Thursday."

This statement from HIDOE was just issued to the media. We are working on updating this and getting more clarity.

The department plans to hold a press conference Thursday, March 19, at 3 p.m.

The announcement comes one day after the Hawaii State Teachers Association filed a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, asserting that Gov. David Ige’s directive that teachers and students should return to classes on March 30 breaks a key safety clause in the teachers’ contract.

Hawaii joins 39 states that have decided to close schools. Combined with district closures in other states, at least 91,000 U.S. public and private schools are closed, are scheduled to close, or were closed and later reopened, affecting at least 41.7 million school students.

  *   *   *   *   *

Addressing your questions and concerns about coronavirus at school

There are protections in the contract should COVID-19 reach school campuses in Hawaii

From HSTA, Tuesday, March 17, 2020

On March 17, the Hawaii State Teachers Association filed a prohibited practice complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board over Gov. David Ige’s plan directing teachers to return to public schools on March 23.

View the complaint

This plan violates two key provisions of our Collective Bargaining Agreement:

Article X - Teacher Protection

B. Teachers shall not be required to work under unsafe or hazardous conditions or to perform tasks which imminently endanger their health or safety.

G. When students are sent home from school or are not required to attend due to emergencies which endanger health or safety, teachers will not be required to remain at, nor report to, said schools.

The governor’s plan to resume instruction for students on March 30 endangers students, teachers, staff, and our larger community. It also contradicts federal and our own state guidance that people should not gather in groups of 10 or more.

During a news conference Tuesday, the governor stated that services in places of worship exceeding this amount should be suspended, that bars and clubs should close, and restaurants should only serve customers through deliveries and take-out service.

Yet Ige also said, “We believe that having schools that practice appropriate social distancing methods to create a safe and stable learning environment for our children is very important in this time for our entire community.” The governor referred to changing school schedules, assigning classes to different parts of the campus, staggering recess and lunch, and offering students’ lunch in classrooms. We strongly believe none of these options can be accomplished while still meeting current guidance.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said, “As a teacher at Hawaii’s largest school, Campbell High, which has 3,000-plus students, I have had to teach more than 40 students in one period. I know social distancing won’t work. I have heard from kindergarten teachers who have shared that trying to stop kindergartners from touching their noses and then wanting to give you a hug is impossible.

“The Hawaii State Department of Education claims it would implement policies and procedures so that if a child shows up at school and they are ill or they have a temperature, that the HIDOE would be able to separate them from the rest of the children to reduce the risk of infection,” Rosenlee added. “We believe this is not enough. The potential for exposure has already occurred.”

The Hawaii Association of Independent Schools board of directors, which represents and guides private schools in the islands, today recommended that “in the interest of getting ahead of the community spread of the virus, all schools should consider closing their campuses for at least four weeks.”

HSTA is willing to consider other options during this crisis, but has informed the HIDOE that forcing teachers to return to schools next week, March 23, without students, and the week after that, March 30, with students will put the lives of educators, students, and families in danger and could help the coronavirus spread further in the islands.

We have been in close contact with top HIDOE officials, and continue to urge them to make safe, rational decisions that are in the best interests of you and your students.

This is an unprecedented situation with conditions changing by the hour. We will do everything in our power to make sure your contractual rights, and health and well-being are protected.

  *   *   *   *   * 

SA: HSTA files grievance over Hawaii DOE’s plan to call teachers back next week  

CB: Hawaii Teachers Union Files Complaint Against DOE, Governor 

HPR: Teachers Union Says Student Social Distancing Won't Work

DoE: HIDOE statement regarding potential Kualoa Ranch COVID-19 case

DoE: HIDOE statement regarding Gov. David Ige's announcement  -- “Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto scheduled a meeting for Wednesday with key leaders to do some critical decision making.”

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