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CEO Message: Staying Together

Aug. 27, 2021

Aloha mai kākou,

In the past few weeks, we have enthusiastically welcomed back our haumāna. Their joy in being here in person with their kumu, friends, and entire school ‘ohana is incomparable. However, their return also comes at a time of new uncertainties.

In Hawai‘i, COVID-19 is on the rise again, with increasing cases (seven-day case average close to 700 per day) and low community vaccination rates (62%). Consequently, health and well-being are critical issues, with hospitals reaching capacity and government leaders reinstating mask, social distancing, and gathering mandates.  

With this uncertainty, we know we must fight even harder to keep us safe and preserve the in-person learning experiences our keiki deserve. Here’s an update on some of the things we are doing: 
Encouraging Vaccinations
We continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, as the leading public health strategy and the best way to stay and keep ourselves and each other safe. It is also the best way to preserve in-person learning. We still offer vaccination events at various KS sites to make this as easy as possible. Currently, for all our campuses, preschools and offices, 82% of regular employees and 63% of students (12 and older) are vaccinated.  
Testing and Quarantining 
We respect personal health situations and provide a weekly testing alternative for those (12 and older) who are not registered with us as vaccinated. Rigorous testing allows us to quickly identify positive cases and close contacts, so we can quarantine and reduce the possibility of school transmissions. Since the start of the pandemic, for all our campuses, preschools, and offices, we have conducted more than 8,000 tests; reported 258 positive cases (from these tests and other reporting sources); and verified that 243 of those 258 positive cases were not transmitted from a KS site (transmissions for 14 cases could not be identified, and there was one case identified as transmitted on site). We will continue to provide you a weekly summary of cases, by campus and site – see also our website.   

Layering Protections and More 
We continue with our extensive layered protection protocols, including testing, masking, staying home when not feeling well, handwashing, cleaning, social distancing if feasible, and daily wellness checks for those who are not registered with us as vaccinated. While these are critical, we are also focused broadly on self-care and the well-being of the whole child, including safety and security, environment and school climate, cognitive health, physical health, mental health, and Native Hawaiian cultural and spiritual health.  

Adjusting the Learning Experience
We use leading practices and data to guide us in adjusting the learning experience. This has included tightening school bubbles to minimize close contacts, requiring vaccination for Fall athletics to safeguard high-exposure activities, and minimizing disruptions from service chains, such as bus and food service. We are also moving to new digital technology to improve contact tracing and assure better continuity of learning for those who are out of school for short periods due to COVID-19 health or quarantines.
Keeping Us Together 
We can only create our healthiest and best learning environments when we all work together. It is easy today to divide ourselves into vaccinated or unvaccinated, quarantined or in-person, etc., and to pass judgment or cast blame. As leaders, we are doing our best to respect everyone, with the belief that each of us is doing what we feel is right to care for ourselves, our ‘ohana, and our community. The value of us believing in each other and staying together for the long road still ahead is well worth it.  

Mahalo for doing your part, for adapting to changing expectations, and for believing in each other. On behalf of our Board of Trustees and leadership team, we will keep doing our part to maintain healthy environments, provide world-class education, and keep all of us in our lāhui together. E Ola!

Ke Akua pū,
Jack Wong


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