June 5, 2020
Aloha parents and guardians,
I want to personally thank you for supporting your child’s education over these past few months. This pandemic has forced families to not only increase their responsibilities as caregivers but also as educators. Mahalo for working with us to deliver your child’s education amid these challenging times.
Moving forward, the delivery of public education will look different in classrooms and schools across our nation. We recognize that our learning channels must be expanded and improved to incorporate more technology and distance learning. The pandemic has also amplified areas of inequity, including a lack of devices in some households and inconsistent connectivity in rural communities. I want to reassure you that I am committed to achieving universal access to technology. It is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
As part of this effort, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE) has distributed 12,000 devices to students statewide over the past couple of months, ordered 10,000 more to support learning over the summer, and will launch mobile learning labs to provide WiFi access and push learning into our hard-to-reach communities. However, we cannot do this alone. The HIDOE is part of a Broadband Hui working collectively to articulate a resolution to the state’s connectivity and access challenges and advance this effort.
The Department recently launched a multi-phase distance learning survey for teachers, secondary students and families to assess other gap areas and identify where we can enhance our support. Surveys were distributed to all HIDOE teachers and eligible secondary students this week, and the family survey will be distributed in early June.
We are going to grow from this experience and apply all that we’ve learned to better support our students through the summer and into the fall. The HIDOE ʻohana is diligently working on plans for next school year and we are relying on the expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s Department of Health to inform our policies and procedures.
Parents will undoubtedly have concerns about their children physically returning to campuses. As a parent and on behalf of our leadership team, many of whom are parents of public school students, I assure you that your child’s safety and well-being is truly of the utmost importance. It will always be at the heart of every decision we make as we navigate these unprecedented times.
We look forward to welcoming our haumana back in the fall and will continue to communicate with you over the coming weeks regarding our plans for school year 2020-21. Stay safe and have a restful summer break.
Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto