Hawai‘i to Shutter Public Schools Through March
The Hawai‘i Department of Education will be closing schools statewide, according to a social media post from a Big Island state legislator.
In a post at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, 2020, Kailua-Kona Rep. Nicole Lowen wrote that schools will be closed until at least the end of the month due to concerns around containment of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Announcement coming soon that Hawai’i schools will be closed until at least March 30th,” Lowen wrote. “Possible extension of the closure will be assessed as (the) situation continues to evolve. I will share additional details as I get them. Please continue to wash hands, practice social distancing, etc. This is not a drill!”
School closures are expected to take effect Monday, March 16, or the earliest day students were expected to return from Spring Break.
The suddenness of the decision shows just how fluid government action is in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, of which the number of confirmed cases in Hawai‘i jumped 300% from two to six cases on Saturday alone.
The DOE said in an email to Big Island Now Thursday that there were no plans to close down schools for myriad reasons.
“There are currently no plans to close schools or move classes online following spring break,” the email read. “The Department understands that the decision to close schools would be made only after serious consideration due to its far-reaching impacts and tremendous community disruption. If school closures are necessary, they will be part of a coordinated effort with the Governor’s Office and other state, public and private partners under the guidance of the Hawai‘i Department of Health.”
“We will provide as much advance notice as possible so that families can make the necessary plans and preparations,” the statement continued. “There are numerous factors to consider when it comes to closing schools like serving students with special needs, those without internet connection or devices at home and impacts to our employees. There are also other considerations and closures that need to happen in the event that schools are directed to close (i.e. malls, movie theaters and beaches).”
It’s unclear what coordinated efforts have taken place, but Gov. David Ige is expected to announce the school closures and other relevant details at a press conference Sunday afternoon.