HBA Begins Transition to Full-Time In-Person Learning

Sophomore Timothy Shimizu received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Safeway through Iolani School’s vaccination clinic on April 23. Photograph by Timothy Shimizu ('23).

This coming August, HBA plans on bringing back all students for in-person classes with only one day of online learning.

The school will continue its current safety protocols for students on campus. According to high school principal Marsha Hirae, masks will be required, temperatures will be taken in the mornings, regular hand sanitizing and washing will be encouraged, and 6-feet social distancing “will be enforced as much as possible when space allows.” If a student tests positive for Covid-19, they will be immediately quarantined, and the school will then determine if other students will need to quarantine based on contact tracing data.

Students will continue to have the option to remain 100% online, but Hirae emphasized that in-person learning is optimal for HBA students. “HBA makes every effort to provide a safe Covid-free environment for our students. Attending school 100% in-person with face-to-face contact with teachers is the most ideal learning environment. Therefore, students are encouraged to attend school 100% in-person. An online option is available for students should their attendance jeopardize their own health and wellbeing or that of elderly relatives who reside in their home,” she said.

As for athletic activities, plans remain uncertain, according to Athletics Director Deren Oshiro, because Covid-19 infection numbers are unpredictable. He said, “It has been a blessing to have nearly all of our students, families and coaches understand the challenges and reality of this pandemic…and be genuinely thankful for what our league and our HBA administration has provided them.”

HBA’s plans for the new school year were announced in an email from President Ron Shiira to parents on February 23. In this email, he said that the school would follow the CDC’s K-12 School Reopening Guidelines and the Hawaii Department of Health reopening guidelines for the Department of Education. For social distancing, the CDC currently recommends that elementary students be seated three feet apart in a classroom, while middle and high schoolers should be seated three feet apart only if there have been less than 100 cases per 100,000 people. For reopening, the DOH recommends that students only return to full-time in-person learning if there are two or fewer cases per 100,000 people. However, the ultimate decision to move from online to in-person learning for independent schools resides with their school officials.

Even with the push for mass vaccination taking place across the country, only 27.5 % of people in the U.S. have been vaccinated as of April 23. In Hawaii, healthcare workers, adults 65 and older, and essential workers were the only groups eligible for the vaccine until April 19, when anyone 16 and older became eligible. Shiira said that as of April 9, 72% of HBA’s faculty have reported that they’ve been fully vaccinated.

HBA is also offering a chance for students to get vaccinated through Iolani School’s vaccination clinic. Students who go to the clinic will receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, administered by Safeway, from April 23-24 and their second dose from May 14-15. According to an email sent by HBA’s administration, students or their families won’t be charged with any out of pocket costs for the vaccination.

With vaccinations opening up to those 16 and older, and many of HBA’s faculty already being vaccinated, the school expects to return to some sense of normalcy in the new school year. Hirae stated that the school would like to bring back field trips if additional buses can be rented. She would also like to bring back school events, such as camps, prom, Spirit Week, and other events as long as state guidelines are followed.

Teachers are looking forward to seeing all their students at once again. Science teacher Claire Mitchell said, “I hope to be able to get back to many of those hands-on, interactive, collaborative lessons that I missed dearly this year. Science is much more fun when you can get messy with friends!”

Currently, even though Hawaii has been in Tier 3 for several weeks now, cases are still on the rise. Mayor Blangiardi has said that Oahu won’t move back to the more restrictive Tier 2 though, as he feels vaccinations will slow down infection rates. Hirae emphasized that plans are always fluid in the current situation, but the school’s priorities remain constant. “The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is always our primary concern,” she said.

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