Kahakai Elementary School secures plastic shields for student and teacher desks

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Kahakai Elementary School Principal James Denight shows what a social distance classroom with desk shields will look like for the upcoming school year.

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Kahakai Elementary School Principal James Denight shows what a social distance classroom with desk shields will look like for the upcoming school year.

One West Hawaii school is gearing up for reopening with an extra layer of protection for students and teachers.

Kahakai Elementary School recently secured 460 plastic shields for student and teacher desks, one of many safety measures being implemented on campus.

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Parent Community Network Coordinator Linda Nagai learned about the shields through Education Specialist Art Kimura of the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium. Kimura, who helps Nagai with the robotics program at the school, purchased hundreds of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) kits from ARTEC Educational and was informed the company was manufacturing shields at a reasonable price.

When Nagai showed principal James Denight photos of the shields, he knew the school needed to get them.

“Our focus is the health and safety of students and staff,” Denight said. “We’re going to keep them in their bubble.”

In addition to the desk shields, the school is modifying the campus with extra benches for the children to social distance and canopies to accommodate social distancing for breakfast. Lunch will be grab-and-go, there will be no recess and playground equipment will be off-limits.

Denight said the school decided on a modified A-B rotational schedule. Half of the students in a classroom will meet for face-to-face instruction from 7:45-11:45 a.m. The other half will participate in online learning from 12:30-2 p.m., rotating every day.

For those families who do not have Wi-Fi, Denight is working to secure personal hot spots. The only exception to the schedule is special needs classes, which will meet all day, every school day, and kindergarten students, who will meet every day for half-day classes.

“We feel this schedule was most beneficial with continuity in learning,” Denight said.

Students will spend the entire face-to-face instructional time in the classroom.

“With no recess and no lunch break, we’re not giving up much instructional time,” Denight said. “We’re just trying to pick the best of the worst — weighing the pros and cons of what would work best for our kids and our school.”

The modified schedule will leave between 10 and 13 students in a classroom at a time, ensuring the 6-foot social distancing mandate. With the shields in place, students will not be required to wear masks in the classroom.

“Teachers are looking forward to getting the kids back on campus,” Denight said. “It’s been such a hardship for them not to have contact with the kids.”

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Denight said there is trepidation of the unknown as school gets underway; however, for parents who do not feel comfortable sending their keiki to school, another option is available through Acellus online learning. He encouraged parents wanting to have online learning only to keep their child registered with the school.

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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