As COVID cases spike, parents want distance learning options ahead of new school year


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Jaerick Medeiros-Garcia’s 9-year-old twins are too young to be vaccinated and have compromised immune systems.

He wants to know why the state Department of Education can’t provide more robust distance learning options for kids like his — given that the number of daily cases statewide has topped more than 400 during the past few days.

“We’re pretty much scared to send our kids to school,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green agrees that distance learning options should be a priority for students with underlying medical conditions.

“For those children — if they are so sick and so vulnerable — we have to provide distance learning for them,” he said.

“If children have preexisting conditions that prevent them from getting a vaccination (and) they’re 14 or 15 years old — that is another reason we should be giving them extra opportunities.”

In a plan released a week and a half ago , the DOE provided a list of more than 100 schools distance learning option. But at most of the schools, teachers are only responsible for grading the students’ work.

“That distance learning sort of comes at a cost because the parent is actually going to be teaching the child. I don’t think they have any teacher instruction involved,” said Tracey Wise, a Big Island parent.

But on Friday, the department provided an update of their distance learning plan, addressing some of these parents’ concerns.

The DOE said it will provide online classes for students with “underlying medical conditions” and for those with parents who don’t “feel comfortable sending their child to campus.”

The classes — which will be overseen by the statewide DOE and not any individual school — will be offer online instruction overseen by teachers for students fifth grade or higher.

But the classes will only be available to about 30 students per grade and will be offered on a first-come, first served basis.

Green said other DOE guidelines such as wearing masks in-doors and vaccinating more parents and students above the age of 12 will help make the schools safer.

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