Students go with the flow of back-to-school

Mr.+Mossman+mans+his+station+checking+in+school+supplies+from+the+previous+school+year+at+the+first+checkpoint+of+the+drive-thru%2C+Aug.+17+and+18.+Over+the+two+days%2C+all+grade+levels+drove+to+different+checkpoints+around+campus+to+pick+up+and+drop+off+everything+they+need+to+close+out+the+%2719-%2720+school+year+and+start+the+%2720-%2721+year.

Photo by Max Bielawski

Mr. Mossman mans his station checking in school supplies from the previous school year at the first checkpoint of the drive-thru, Aug. 17 and 18. Over the two days, all grade levels drove to different checkpoints around campus to pick up and drop off everything they need to close out the '19-'20 school year and start the '20-'21 year.

Going back to school during a pandemic has its obstacles, and Kamehameha Maui students are tackling them one by one since the school year started in a hybrid model on Aug. 10.

On Monday and Tuesday, the freshmen and sophomores were finally able to see their classmates together for the first time since the school went to a distance learning model in the fourth quarter of last school year.

Following CDC guidelines, they sat one to a bus seat, wore a mask except when eating and remained socially distant whenever possible.

“It was hard not being able to go close to my friends, but I still enjoyed my time on campus, and I thought all the rules were for the best,” sophomore Keale Chang said.

Students attending school were first screened at Keōpūolani Hale, where a camera read their body temperatures as they walked past. After, each student got a sticker to wear that said they’d been cleared.

A thermal image of a teacher
Ms. Haina reporting for duty in mask and glasses passes the thermal scan with flying colors.

Originally, freshmen and sophomores were supposed to attend school together on Mondays and Tuesdays, while seniors and juniors would attend school on Thursdays and Fridays. The school campus would be closed for general instruction on Wednesdays.

To reduce the number of student bodies on campus, however, this plan was changed to allow just freshmen on Monday, sophomores on Tuesday, juniors on Thursday, and seniors on Friday.

At the same time as students were returning, the number of cases in the state began to rise quickly, and a few cases of employees having had or having come into contact with people who had active COVID-19 were self-reported. These Maui staff members had not come into direct contact with students, and staff members who may have been in contact with those affected were notified via contact tracing measures.

Wikipedia graph showing 354 new cases of COVID-19 on August 13, 2020.
This Wikipedia graph shows 354 new cases of COVID-19 on August 13, the highest number of cases reported to date. This was also in the middle of the first week that Kamehameha Maui students returned to campus.

With the safety of the students in mind, KSM transitioned to a full distance learning program beginning Aug. 13 to last through at least Aug. 31.

This meant that the juniors and seniors never made it to any in-person classes.

“It’s a difficult year, especially for seniors, but it’s the safe thing to do. I wish you guys were here on campus, and we could spend time with you, but we do what we do to keep you guys safe,” Kahu Kalani Wong said.

Going fully online, even with the possibility of coming back in the next month, has some students concerned.

“For me, language classes such as Japanese are harder because I like learning face-to-face, and it’s more difficult to learn online,” senior Kuenaokeao Borling said.

To accommodate the school going fully online for the remainder for the month of August, students dropped off last year’s school-issued items, and picked up  this year’s school supplies in a drive-thru event on campus, Monday and Tuesday this week.

Students from the junior and senior classes drove through the quad and past Pi’ilani pool and the gym and stadium on Aug 17, and the freshman and sophomore classes drove past Pi’ilani and Ke’eaumokupāpa’iahiahi dining hall on Aug 18.

“I felt a little nervous because I wasn’t sure about the safety protocols, but when everyone was there, everyone was masked-up and most people had gloves. When I was transferring my possessions they would grab the opposite ends of whatever I would, and they avoided any unnecessary contact,” senior Maximus Paschoal said.

At the drive-thru, there were four checkpoints.

The first checkpoint had students check in textbooks, library books, and other borrowed items from the previous school year.

The second checkpoint was for students to check in their old laptop and receive a new one.

“We’re blessed we have laptops, so we can at least keep moving forward because we have the resources. Other places that don’t have the resources, they are gonna have a real hard time,” Mr. Kealii Mossman said.

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The third checkpoint was to pick up personal items from lockers from last year. Students also received last year’s yearbook, which couldn’t be distributed due to the school shutdown in the fourth quarter.

At the fourth and final checkpoint, students received all of their necessary textbooks and school supplies for this year. Items included textbooks, packets,  musical instruments, cameras, calculators, anatomy skeletons, clay and art materials, and other equipment.

Two weeks in, and students have received two days of physical instruction (one for freshmen, one for sophomores), and two days of distance instruction for all students.

The first few days resulted in reports of slow computers and some difficulty with technology in general. The IT department is working quickly to resolve these issues, and staff and students continue to tackle each obstacle while taking things one day at a time.

With tomorrow being a teacher in-service day, everyone will take a breather before next week, the first in which students will attend all classes under the full distance learning program all week.