School Design

State, complex area and school leaders continue to work collaboratively to establish purposeful instructional designs and models that ensure every student is highly engaged in rigorous, creative and innovative academic curriculum and learning environments. HIDOE is committed to ensuring that school design decisions and modifications prioritize and support the needs of students and their families during this uncertain time.

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Updated Dec. 18, 2020

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​School Design
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A glimpse into what distance learning looks like in action at Ka'ala Elementary School.

Distance Learning 

School Year 2020-21 began with most HIDOE schools providing education via distance learning based on COVID-19 conditions and health guidance at the time. That was anticipated to be in effect for at least the first four weeks of the school year, and was later extended for the entire first quarter through Oct. 2, followed by a one-week fall break. There have been exceptions where schools offer learning hubs on campus to provide in-person educational programming for vulnerable students. (Identified supports for vulnerable students vary among schools and may include, for example, students who require specialized learning services, students who need additional academic support, students in key transition grades, and students who lack internet access.) The Department is providing distance learning tools, curriculum resources, instructional delivery resources and training.

State, complex area and school leaders continue to work collaboratively to establish purposeful instructional designs and models that ensure every student is highly engaged in rigorous, creative and innovative academic curriculum and learning environments. HIDOE is committed to ensuring that school design decisions and modifications prioritize and support the needs of students and their families during this uncertain time.

Reopening Thresholds

Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) guidance, Oct. 22, 2020

Thresholds for Transitioning Between Learning Models
In general, the risk of COVID-19 spread in schools increases across the continuum Learning from Home, Blended Learning, to In-person Learning with the risk moderated for Blended and In-person learning based upon the range of mitigation strategies put in place and the extent to which they are followed. (See HIDOE School Models here.) 

The decision to transition between in-person, blended, and learning from home models resides with the Complex Area (in collaboration with the State). School officials should make decisions regarding learning models based on available data on levels of community transmission and, especially, their capacity to implement appropriate mitigation measures in schools. The following are considerations to assist in making this decision.

Learning Model Parameters, see HIDOE Core Assumptions here

A minimum of two cycles of data should be reviewed before considering transition to a new learning level. The percent of tests that are positive is included as a secondary measure. Both criteria (7-day Daily Average and Percent Positivity) should be met for at least two 7-day cycles in a row in order to move to a less restrictive learning model; however, only case rate criteria need to be met to move to a more restrictive model. Thresholds alone should not determine movement between learning levels. Other factors to consider when deciding to move toward an in-person model include the school’s ability to implement mitigation practices, such as enforcing a mask-wearing policy, cohorting, physical distancing, and cleaning/sanitizing practices (see Section II: Considerations for Schools).

Considerations for Differential Elementary and Secondary School Learning Models
The learning model determination may not be the same for all grades. Early reports suggest the number of COVID-19 cases among children may vary by age and other factors. Adolescents aged 10-17 years may be more likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 disease) compared with children younger than 10 years of age. This combined with understanding that distance learning is more difficult with younger learners and creates a more significant burden on families, accounts for the learning model framework of earlier return to in-person learning for elementary students than for secondary students.

Within the general framework, considerations should be made for student populations with special educational or health concerns. In-person instruction may be particularly beneficial for students with additional learning needs, and may warrant prioritization of these students for return to in-person learning regardless of grade. Conversely, it may be appropriate to adopt a more conservative approach to return to in-person learning for children with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for more severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection. Competing factors may have to be weighed by schools in determining learning models for particular student populations.

Whichever model is selected, schools must monitor constantly, evaluate periodically (establish regular evaluations), and correct any issues immediately.

Preparedness and Capacity to Implement Mitigation Strategies, click here.

Planning Scenarios for Moving Between Learning Models, click here.

School Models

School leaders created elementary, middle/intermediate, and high school models for the reopening of the 2020-21 year. School models may vary due to:

  • Number and size of school facilities; 
  • Ability to accommodate enrollment numbers; and
  • Impact of instructional staff vacancies.

Each school model adopted must: 

  • Ensure 180 days of instruction; 
  • Prioritize kindergarten through grade 2 and pre-kindergarten students for face-to-face learning on campus (as applicable); 
  • Prioritize vulnerable students, including but not limited to children with disabilities, English learners, and economically disadvantaged students, for face-to-face or online learning, as appropriate, on campus; 
  • Allow for student support services to be provided; 
  • Ensure compliance with social distancing and health and sanitation guidelines from state health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and 
  • Abide by the current collective bargaining agreements between the labor unions and HIDOE.

Click here to view the school models being considered for elementary, middle/intermediate and secondary schools. Click here to view school year 2020-21 models. 

Assessment for Learning

During the first two weeks of school year 2020-21, schools will assess all students from kindergarten through grade 12 to determine the students’ readiness to meet the curricular standards of their current grade level. Schools will use the Hawaiʻi Multi-Tiered System of Support (HMTSS) and formative assessments to determine how to support students’ learning needs. 

Assessments for Learning is the first academic step to begin acceleration, intervention, differentiation, personalization, progress monitoring and reporting.

Schools will utilize their choice of universal screener and common formative assessments.

Multi-track Schools

HIDOE announced on June 8, 2020 that its three multi-track schools will temporarily convert to a single-track schedule in the fall. The change will be in place for at least the first semester of the 2020-21 school year. This means the first day of instruction and the dates for fall break will be the same as all other HIDOE public schools (See revised 2020-21 multi-track calendar here). 

Multi-track schools – Mililani Middle, Kapolei Middle and Holomua Elementary – traditionally operate with students staggered on different tracks throughout the year. Click here to view the announcement. 

After-School Programming

Photo credit: Ilima Intermediate

School administrators have the authority to coordinate programming, approve activities, and determine the use of school facilities for all out-of-school-time programs. These programs include: 

  • A+ Program for elementary schools;

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers for all schools (priority to Title I School);

  • REACH programs for middle and intermediate schools; and

  • UPLINK programs for middle and intermediate schools.

All out-of-school-time (OST) programs, with the exception of the A+ Program, are allowed to continue to provide programming through creative mediums when the regular school day is not in session, to include but not be limited to virtual spaces. 

School administrators should continue to consider the health and safety of staff, service providers, families and students and provide timely communication to the out-of-school-time programs and its participants. 

OST programs administered by the Department's Community Engagement Branch are expected to continue the same cleaning and disinfecting protocols of the Department. This may include physical distancing measures.

The Department provides OST programs a budget to purchase personal protection supplies and other equipment. Programs are encouraged to work with their state-level program manager, school principal and/or complex area office to address additional costs associated with opening and maintaining school spaces.

Depending on the program, students are prioritized for enrollment and financial assistance based on their unique circumstances, such as, homelessness, students with disabilities, English language learners, students in families that were substantially financially impacted by COVID‐19, students directly affected by COVID‐19 through their own illness, family illness, family death or hospitalization.  


Student Travel: Student travel (e.g. field trips) off-site during the school day and to off-island destinations will not be allowed until further notice.

Employee Travel: Work-related travel shall, to the extent practical, should be kept to a minimum and limited to only critical needs. Although of value, mainland travel for professional development activities will not be approved. Use of teleconferencing and participation in webinars in place of travel is encouraged. 

Non-HIDOE Travel: On December 16, 2020, Governor David Ige signed a 17th Proclamation related to the State’s COVID-19 emergency. Based on his guidance, the state’s mandatory self-quarantine period for travelers entering the state and traveling counties is reduced from 14 to 10 days. A Pre-Travel Testing Program still allows travelers an alternative to the state’s mandatory self-quarantine. 

All HIDOE employees and public school students will need to comply with their particular county’s quarantine guidelines to avoid a mandatory self-quarantine in order to be able to return to work or school. 

These county-by-county guidelines, which are subject to change, can be found on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) website. Employees and families should continue to refer to the DOT’s website for the most current information here

For employees and students traveling out of state, schools have the option to request proof of the negative test results required of the pre-travel testing program (adult traveling companion if the student is less than 5 years old). If the employee/student (adult traveling companion if the student is less than 5 years old) does not participate in the pre-travel testing program, they will need to complete their required quarantine prior to returning to campus or designated work site. A boarding pass or official travel itinerary from the airline may be requested as documentation that the quarantine period was completed.

If someone has to quarantine for traveling, it does not extend to their household members - unless the traveler begins to display symptoms or test positive for COVID. Students and employees would then need to quarantine because they have been exposed to a positive case.


HIDOE is collaborating with the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, and various athletic leagues (Big Island Interscholastic Federation, Kauai Interscholastic Association, Maui Interscholastic League, and the Oahu Interscholastic Association) to establish requirements for restarting high school athletics. The requirements will incorporate National Federation of State High School Associations guidelines that were developed with guidance from the CDC. Separate HIDOE practice guidelines for high schools will assist with the restart of athletics. Guidelines will adhere to state and county declarations and health and safety guidelines.


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