DOE extends school closures

Public schools will remain closed for a total of three weeks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, and all DOE offices, except those for essential function will be closed for the next 15 days, the department said Thursday.

School and state offices will continue to provide public services remotely.

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According to the DOE, public and charter schools will remain closed to students through April 6, following an extended spring break period. Barring any future changes, return dates will be staggered.

Custodians, principals and administrators return to work April 3, custodians continue deep cleaning of campuses April 4-5, teachers return to work to prepare classrooms April 6 and students will return to school April 7.

Spring break was originally scheduled from March 16-20 for most schools, but the DOE announced last week that the break would be extended by one week through March 27.

Employees will be working remotely and those who need to perform duties at a campus or office during this period will be limited to those tasks before returning to their telework arrangement.

“Closing our schools will help safeguard the health of our children, teachers, staff and surrounding communities as we fight against the spread of COVID-19,” state Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a news release Thursday. “We appreciate the support and commitment of our public school ohana as we collectively navigate these uncharted waters.”

“Our entire state must band together to combat community spread of the virus and school closures are an important part of the response,” said Board of Education Chairwoman Catherine Payne. “We will work closely with the department and our federal partners to ensure that education requirements continue to be met and students have access to such essential services as meals.”

The DOE will continue to provide student meals, implementing the Seamless Summer Option program a few months earlier than expected.

During the extended break, 39 Hawaii public schools will provide grab-and-go breakfast and lunch to children 18 years old and younger from Monday through Friday. Breakfast is available from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m.-noon.

Locations on the Big Island include: Ka‘u High & Intermediate School, Kohala High School, Konawaena High School, Pahoa High & Intermediate School and Waiakea High School.

Locations were selected based on criteria including a high number of students eligible for the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program and geography.

Meals will not be served March 26 in observance of Prince Kuhio Day. Some schools might start serving meals later in the week.

Graduation ceremonies, which are normally conducted in mid to late May, have not yet been modified and any necessary scheduling changes will be announced at a future date.

In the event there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 involving an individual in a DOE school community, the department will not be issuing a notification.

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This outreach will be done by the state Department of Health in order to avoid any potential Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act violations.

Additional information and DOE COVID-19 updates will continue to be posted on the department’s website at hawaiipublicschools.org.

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