This summer, the Hawaii Department of Education announced that all students would return to in-person school with no widespread option for distance learning. This was a controversial decision, as many people considered that the dangers of COVID-19 outweighed the benefits of in-person instruction. Two months after the return of full in-person classes, nothing changed significantly at Kaiser, even when some students tested positive. But in Hawaii, the rate of positive COVID cases rose significantly, reaching the highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. This reignited the debate over whether or not Kaiser should change their policy of fully in-person classes. However, for the student’s best interests our school should not return to distance learning.
Firstly, distance learning last school year presented some serious difficulties. Many students found understanding the lessons challenging, and some could not receive extra help on assignments or check in with their teachers, making it easy to fall behind in class. Another issue that was presented through online schooling was a lack of in class participation, as some students would not even turn on their cameras or microphones. Additionally, many students found their mental health worsening with distance learning. Not being able to see your friends in school prevented some from meeting their peers completely.
In school, the risk of COVID transmission is not too high. Daily COVID cases are dropping significantly since the first Delta variant spike, with the weekly average cases falling below three hundred cases for the first time since the beginning of August. The current COVID protocol in place at Kaiser has so far prevented an outbreak on campus, with the few students that tested positive being able to safely return with most close contacts being vaccinated. Kaiser’s stringent COVID measures have proven to be effective at stopping a COVID outbreak in school. If this stays consistent, there is essentially no risk of in person classes.
Some might argue that COVID transmission will inevitably occur on campus, but when that situation occurs Kaiser can quickly implement distance learning- or if contained, the school can still remain open. Currently, there is a lack of understanding as to when a return to distance learning could occur. Kaiser and the Department of Education should have a contingency plan in place that the students are aware of, detailing at what point we might automatically return to online instruction, and what guidelines would be required such as the amount of daily cases needed.
Ultimately, Kaiser should continue with in-person learning. Given the serious issues with distance learning and the lack of monumentally COVID transmissions in schools, as long as there is a clear plan for when a return to distance learning would occur, the school should remain in in-person instruction.