Hawaii’s school superintendent on Thursday reaffirmed her decision to resume in-person learning at all schools in the fall, telling Board of Education members that lagging student performance this past year necessitates a return to standard instruction.

Outgoing school chief Christina Kishimoto said full distance learning will not be offered as an option by the time the new school year begins Aug. 3, although individual schools may offer the alternative in limited circumstances.

“Looking at the data this year, we agreed that the number one priority for us is to fully reopen,” she said during the meeting. “We don’t have to put (distance learning) options out there and not have a good outcome in terms of instruction.”

However, the decision received pushback from some in the education community. Some advocates pointed to parents with lingering concerns about sending their children back to classrooms as COVID-19 remains a threat or those who prefer a remote learning option after seeing their children thrive in that environment.

Moreover, the fatigue of online learning caused a mass exodus from public schools this past year. There were 8,982 total student withdrawals through the third quarter across all DOE schools compared with 7,751 withdrawals the prior year.

“If families are directed to withdraw for homeschooling, Hawaii DOE would lose funds due to that disenrollment,” said David Miyashiro, executive director of HawaiiKidsCAN.

He also expressed concern that the DOE’s lack of a distance learning option means the pressure is on for parents to navigate a confusing system.

“The burden would be placed on parents to try and figure out directly from schools what the blended options would be,” he said. “My impression is that this could be a very difficult situation for parents to try to figure out what is being offered by schools.”

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