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Travel Quarantine Extended, Schools Prepare to Reopen

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Last Monday, Gov. David Ige announced a delay in reopening trans-Pacific travel to Hawaii, now set for Sept. 1. Previously announced to open Aug. 1, Ige called it “a very tough decision” that was made based on record numbers of new cases in Hawaii, as well as large, uncontrolled outbreaks in mainland states.

“On one hand we could continue to move forward and re-open the economy but face an uncontrolled surge in COVID-19 cases. On the other, we can delay the pre-travel testing and risk further damage to the economy,” Gov. Ige said.

Until then, returning residents and visitors coming from outside the state are required to abide by the 14-day mandated quarantine. After Sept. 1, travelers will be permitted to provide proof of a negative test prior to travel to bypass the quarantine requirement.

Last weekend, the state experienced three more COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total to 24 as of Sunday, July 19. As of Friday, July 17, the state had recorded 1334 total cases to date and 39 people currently hospitalized due to coronavirus. Most recent cases are attributed to community spread, with 86 new cases identified between July 10 and July 12 alone.

“This clearly shows how easily and quickly this virus can spread from person-to-person and from place-to-place when people are not practicing physical distancing, not wearing masks, not staying home when sick, and possibly not washing their hands frequently and thoroughly,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.

Ige said there’s an additional anticipated rise in cases when schools reopen on Aug. 4.

Each school has developed its own plan for dealing with COVID-19 concerns, which may include one or a combination of face-to-face learning — in which students are on campus for classroom instruction — blended rotation — which means one group of students is present on campus while other groups participate in distance learning — or a hybrid model that combines face-to-face with blended rotation in which, for elementary schools, means lower grades will have full time classroom learning while upper grades will use blended rotation.

According to the Hawaii Dept. of Education, Kaunakakai Elementary will be following the blended model, Kilohana will be hybrid and Maunaloa will have face-to-face. As a charter school, Kualapu’u will begin full return on Aug. 12, with student schedules being communicated directly to parents. Molokai Middle School will use A/B two-day rotation in which face to face instruction is combined with online learning that includes synchronous (occurring at the same, assigned times) as well as asynchronous (online tasks outside of scheduled class times) and each student reporting to school twice a week. Molokai High will follow a hybrid schedule in which groups of students will be on campus for face to face while other groups participate in distance learning, on a rotational basis.

The summer Grab-N-Go meal program ended on July 17, with school cafeterias and kitchens now preparing for the new school year with maintenance and deep cleaning of equipment and facilities, according to the DOE. Once schools reopen, students will be able to pick up their meals only at their schools of enrollment and normal payment schedules will apply. Schools will designate pick-up locations on campus where students who are distance learning may pick up and pay for meals. On-campus dining may include students taking grab-and-go meals back to their classrooms or other locations and staggered meal schedules to ensure social distancing. Specific details will be provided to parents and guardians by each school directly, according to the DOE.

Extracurricular activities, such as fall sports, academic competitions and clubs will resume in person Aug. 19, though the date is subject to change as the DOE monitors the situation, the department said. All programming will be required to adhere to state and county declarations and follow health and safety protocols in the Department’s Return to Learn plan.

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