The Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE) has been working with the state Department of Health (DOH) throughout the winter break to closely monitor the impacts of the omicron variant in preparation for the return of students and staff. With the continued support and guidance from DOH, the HIDOE remains committed to full in-person learning during the second semester that begins next week.
“We’ve seen the benefits of in-person learning for our students’ social development and academic achievement and while we remain vigilant due to the omicron variant, we have consistent safety measures in place that have proven effective at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our schools,” interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. “Core safety protocols such as getting vaccinated and boosted, masking, social distancing and hand-washing have helped keep our positivity rates lower than the broader community, as well as our counterparts on the mainland.”
HIDOE teachers are scheduled to return from winter break on Jan. 3 and students are scheduled to return on Jan. 4. Over the break, HIDOE leadership and school leaders have been revisiting contingency plans and preparing for potential situations that may require modifications to in-person instruction. Should any transitions need to occur, schools will notify their staff and families directly.
Since Dec. 1, HIDOE schools collectively have seen a daily average of 19 positive cases across nearly 42,000 staff and 160,000 students, according to the Department’s case count dashboard.
“In addition to our core mitigation strategies, we are fortunate to now have a combination of tools and resources to help combat this virus, including vaccinations for students 5 years or older, booster shots, and opportunities for testing within the community or at school. That means everyone on our campuses — with the exception of pre-kindergarten students — is eligible to be vaccinated,” Hayashi added. “Keeping our schools safe and open is a community effort and will require action and commitment from each and every one of us to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
In preparation of the return from winter break, families and staff are encouraged to revisit the Department’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidance (bit.ly/HIDOEsafetyguidance). The guidance emphasizes four core essential strategies that are critical to keeping schools safe:
- Promote vaccinations.
- Conduct daily wellness checks (bit.ly/HIDOE-WellnessCheck). Anyone feeling sick should stay home.
- Wear masks at all times indoors.
- Practice proper hand hygiene.