Health and Safety

The health and safety of our students and staff remains a top priority. Utilizing guidance from the Hawai'i State Department of Health, this section of the reopening plan will include information about cleaning and sanitation, campus visitors, personal protective equipment (PPE) and more. 

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Updated May 5, 2021

Health and Safety
​School Design
​Equity and Access
​Staff Capacity
​Family and Community
​Contingency Planning
Faculty and Staff Training
​Memos & Announcements
COVID-19 Updates
RTL Metrics


View the Department's Health & Safety Handbook (Version 20 - May 3, 2021).

Cloth Face Coverings or Masks

Masks are required:

  • Entering and exiting a school campus;
  • On school buses;
  • During campus transitions (e.g. moving from class to class, to an office, the library, cafeteria or locker room);
  • In the bathroom;
  • In the cafeteria (masks may be removed when students are eating);
  • In the classroom;
    • When facial features need to be seen by teachers or students to support learning or an activity, a clear face covering (e.g. mask with a clear window) may be worn.  Note: clear face coverings are NOT face shields.
  • In the health room;
    • A student may temporarily lower his/her face mask to receive orally administered medications. 
  • During recess.
    • When students are engaged in high-intensity activities, like running, a mask may be uncomfortable or cause difficulty breathing; however, these activities increase and can spread the distance droplets from breathing. Classes should remain in their ʻOhana Bubble when at recess, wear their masks, and maintain at least six feet of distance to the greatest extent possible.

Face shields should NOT be used as a substitute for masks because of a lack of evidence of their effectiveness for infection control.

An individual may request an exemption for wearing a mask due to a medical condition with a signed note from a licensed healthcare provider (i.e. U.S. licensed physician, APRN, or PA) who is treating the individual for that condition.

Chapter 19 regulations will be implemented for students who refuse to wear a mask. Refer to the CDC’s “Additional Considerations for the Use of Cloth Face Coverings Among K12 Students.”

School-based Vaccination Clinics

In partnership with health care providers and state health officials, the Department launched a statewide effort in early May 2021 to vaccinate thousands of eligible public school students when vaccines became available to residents 16 years and older, and soon after to those 12 and older.

The rollout of student vaccinations followed the Department's efforts to provide employees with vaccination opportunities. Beginning in January 2021 HIDOE staff and service providers were prioritized for vaccines as "frontline essential workers." Some 20,000 individuals who wanted access to the vaccine — including more than 11,000 teachers and more than 1,000 contractors including bus drivers, custodians, health aides and office staff — were inoculated.

Personal Protective Equipment

Photo credit: Waianae HighPersonal protective equipment (PPE) is defined as, but not limited to, gloves, masks, eye protection, gowns, aprons and boots. 

HIDOE school, complex area and state office requests for PPE will be filled to the highest standard achievable based on assessments of current and future PPE needs for individuals or groups of higher risk of exposure. Given the dynamic nature of the pandemic, requests are subject to considerations of the overall response needs and supply chain limitations. HIDOE continues to receive PPE supplies from the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency as well as purchases coordinated through the Department's Office of Facilities and Operations (OFO).

OFO will work and consult with HIDOE's Office of Talent Management and Office of Student Support Services to determine the appropriate PPE needed for various categories of employees. Needs will be based on the risk of exposure levels described by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

For a breakdown of PPE distribution by school, click here

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Requirements

A face shield must be worn with a face mask for maximum protection. A face shield is primarily used for eye protection for the person wearing it. Wearing a face shield, along with a face mask, is recommended for an adult who works in a setting such as the health room or interacts with students at close range who have special needs where there is a higher risk of coming into contact with body fluids or respiratory droplets. A face shield may serve as a layer of protection when other mitigation strategies can not be maintained (e.g. when a mask must be temporarily removed during meal times or physical distancing is less than six feet).

It is not required to wear gowns, aprons, or shoe covers, but they may be considered when there is potential for broad distribution of body fluids (e.g. vomiting). Plastic protective gowns and disposable shoe covers are not advised when addressing a student’s challenging behavior as they can be easily ripped or torn becoming hazardous and the shoe covers will provide less traction. However, plastic protective gowns or aprons may be considered when feeding a student, providing toileting or diapering support, or when cleaning and sanitizing especially when diluted bleach will be used or the clean-up involves bodily fluids. Disposable shoe covers may also be considered depending on the work involved. 

Disposable gloves must be worn if an employee is likely to touch bodily fluids. Disposable gloves are recommended when using a disinfectant, disposing of used tissues, changing linens or doing laundry. When working with medically fragile students, disposable gloves may be worn when touching a student or their belongings. Gloves must be changed after each physical interaction to decrease the spread of possible infection. Be sure to safely dispose of gloves after use and wash or sanitize your hands before and after use. Disposable gloves cannot be reused. For incidental touches, such as providing a light “Safety-Care” elbow check, gloves are not needed but staff must sanitize or wash their hands before and afterwards. If gloves are unavailable when physically interacting with a student, wash hands before and immediately after touching the student or handling student belongings. 

Additional staff member(s) should be available to monitor and assist with retrieving additional protective equipment for staff involved in any physical interactions, as needed. As soon as physical interaction is no longer needed, staff should remove and dispose of or clean and disinfect reusable protective equipment and wash their hands.

Health Rooms and Services

To ensure physical distancing, temporary barriers should be installed and procedures for health room visits should be in place prior to the start of the school year. Students exhibiting symptoms of illness should be separated from other health room visitors.

The School Health Assistant (SHA) will play an important role in assessing and intervening when students report to the health room not feeling well. Information for staff, parents and students should be placed into the school's handbook that is distributed at the beginning of the school year. 

When a student becomes ill, the student should be sent to the health room. If there is no school health assistant on campus, the student should be sent to the designated staff member and the following steps should be followed:

  • The student's parent or guardian should be called to pick up the student. 
  • The student should be placed in a supervised, isolated area until he/she is picked up. Do not have the student wait at the main office.
  • Any student sent home due to illness should be excluded from school until fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medication.

The following practices to prevent COVID-19 and other contagious viruses should be implemented in the health room:

  • Develop a route to the health room that minimizes interactions.
  • Avoid and prevent close contact.
  • SHA wears a face mask, eye protection (e.g. face shield), and gloves (discarded between students)
  • Face mask or tissue should be provided to student when in close contact and when student has symptoms of illness.
  • SHA and student should wash hands before and after each encounter.
  • Screen and send home any students who are ill.
  • Isolate those who are ill from others.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces after each use.
  • Promote good airflow while maintaining privacy.
  • Keep supplies in stock.

Cleaning and Sanitation

Cleaning and disinfecting are part of a broad approach to prevent infectious diseases, including COVID-19, in schools. Cleaning and disinfecting generally reduce the risk of spreading infection, including COVID-19, by removing and killing germs on surfaces people frequently touch. COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person, but it may also spread by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose, or possibly your eEPA Disinfectant Guidanceyes. Cleaning and disinfecting at least daily at your school may reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Not every surface needs to be disinfected every time it is cleaned. Prioritize disinfecting surfaces that ill persons have touched and those that are routinely touched or shared between students.

All employees responsible for the cleaning and sanitation of facilities will be trained on proper procedures, supplies, and frequency of cleaning. Once the school or office has hired the employee, the supervisor will notify HIDOE’s Office of Facilities and Operations (OFO). Training will be offered through a variety of methods: online video, webinar, and/or in-person, to ensure timely and consistent quality in services performed. View training offered by OFO here.

Periodic quality assurance reviews of facilities will be required by the administration to ensure the safety of the students and staff. Procedures will be posted on HIDOE’s intranet for administrators, head custodians, and cafeteria managers to access as needed. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a list of disinfectants that kills COVID-19, click here to view. 

See the Department's Health & Safety Handbook here, which includes cleaning and sanitation procedures in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case at a HIDOE office or campus. 

Campus Visitors

Schools shall take all reasonable precautions to maintain and enforce social distancing and mask requirements when meeting with parents and the public at school and HIDOE offices. 

  • Limit the number of non-essential visitors on campus. 

  • All visitors must be pre-approved by principal or designee unless in the case of emergencies. Appointments may be required to properly schedule and maintain health and safety measures. 

  • All visitors must complete a Daily Wellness Check. Principals and their designees shall have the authority to restrict access to the campus for those individuals exhibiting any symptoms of illness.

  • In cases of emergencies, the front office must be notified prior to arrival at the school, so that the school officials can respond as quickly as possible.

  • Keep track of where visitors go and who they interact with on campus in case COVID-19 response becomes necessary. 

  • Post signage to direct deliveries to the appropriate area and inform about safety protocols. 

  • Principals and their designees shall have the authority to restrict access to the campus if a visitor doesn’t have an appointment, and allow for scheduling a future appointment or other means of communication to maintain health and safety measures.

  • Persons who are restricted from physical presence at the school or office shall be allowed to conduct business by telephone or other appropriate audio-visual technology.

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