Several Hawaii Charter Schools Return to Online Learning Amid Covid Wave


At least six charter schools – public schools run by independent boards outside the state Department of Education – are starting the new semester with e-learning due to the latest wave of Covid-19, and others may follow suit if the number of cases remains high.

Schools include Kua O Ka La PCS, Na Wai Ola PCS, and Ka ‘Umeke Ka’eo on the island of Hawaii; University Laboratory School and DreamHouse Ewa Beach in Oahu; and Hawaii Technology Academy, which is a multi-island coeducational virtual school by design, but is now fully virtual.

“That will likely change and I may be planning more schools if infection / exposure rates continue to rise,” said Yvonne Lau, Acting Executive Director of the Public Charter School Board. State of Hawaii, on the current number of schools providing distance education.

The length of time these charters plan to remain virtual varies from a few days to a full month. Cory Lum / Civil Beat / 2020

Some of these schools switch to fully online learning for at least several days to a few weeks, but one – Na Wai Ola – will remain in this mode for at least the entire month of January, according to a list provided by Lau.

Charter schools did not need the board’s prior approval to change their learning model under a temporary permission granted to all charters last May to provide flexibility during the pandemic.

Hawaii has 37 charter schools with approximately 12,000 students enrolled this year. Many schools focus on Native Hawaiian cultural and linguistic immersion.

The decision to go virtual comes as many of Hawaii’s 257 public schools experienced severe staff shortages in the first week back to school after winter recess. However, the Department of Education has maintained the focus on in-person teaching despite the coronavirus wave caused by the highly contagious variant of omicron.

Several private schools around the islands have also started the new year with online learning.

Sacred Hearts Academy, a private girls’ school in Kaimuki with around 700 students, launches all grades 1 to 12 students online from Thursday, the first day of return, until January 14. Students must provide a negative Covid test before returning in person on January 18.

The school’s preschool and kindergarten children are back in person, however, given the challenges of online learning for this age group, school president Scott Schroeder said in an interview.

Schroeder said the school is providing rapid antigen testing to all students to ease any financial burden on families “to make sure they participate in this health and safety measure.”

“Every day and hour is a time of preparation for Covid, so we continue to do our best to make sure everyone can stay healthy and well,” he said.


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