Monday, March 20, 2023

DOE: No change in graduate guidance as COVID cases rise

Hawaii’s top education official indicated Wednesday that as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in state and public schools, in-person graduation guidelines have not changed.

But interim education superintendent Keith Hayashi sought the public’s help to keep cases down by wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated. “Stay home when you’re sick” precautionary measures they said “Will really help our schools respect our graduating seniors.”

Hayashi and State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble addressed reporters on Wednesday afternoon for the seventh week in a row that the number of average daily COVID cases has increased. On Wednesday’s weekly report, an average of 722 cases were reported in a day across the state, which is higher than the average of 475 cases reported last week.

Public schools are also seeing a similar trend to the greater community, with this week marking the seventh straight week the number of cases has increased since the spring break, Hayashi said.

Last week there were 1,053 confirmed or probable cases in 257 public schools in the state.

According to the state education department website, Lanai High and Elementary School reported 29 new cases from April 29 to Sunday.

The island, which county officials say, has recorded 33 new cases over the past week, according to state health department data on Wednesday.

Molokai Middle School, which saw 24 cases from May 1 to Tuesday, had no schools on Monday and pushed for distance learning this week. Principal Canoa Pali said that the school would not be able to follow the bell program with distance learning due to lack of staff. Free COVID self-testing kits along with grab and go meals are being distributed to other Molokai schools from Friday.

The island saw 40 new cases in the past week, DOH data shows.

Hayashi said that in the last one month, five and a half lakh home test kits have been distributed in schools.

“Please use this device before participating in any program,” They said.

Hayashi said schools have the flexibility to decide on graduate-specific details, “To maintain the health and safety of all attendees.”

He added that guest permitting and leave-giving may look different on different campuses.

“While the specifics of graduation and how it will be conducted notably haven’t changed, we’re really pleased that DOE was able to get a lot of test kits out before graduation,” Kemble said. “Use those tests kids. Test before you go to graduation. It’s another way to make celebrations safe.”


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