Masks still required indoors for Hawaii public school students

April 18, 2022

Just a month into the school year, Hawaii’s Department of Education is standing firm in requiring students to wear masks indoors despite disagreements among some parents.

In a letter sent to parents on Monday, Acting Superintendent Keith Hayashi acknowledged the differing perspectives regarding mask mandates in schools.

He added that the DOE continues to follow the recommendations of the state Department of Health and will maintain the mandate until May 27, the last day of school for teachers.

“Keeping our schools open and safe has been a collective effort and I am grateful for all that our families have done for our school communities,” Hayashi wrote.

Although the state Department of Education has relaxed its outdoor mask policy, students and staff are still required to wear masks indoors. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The decision comes weeks after Hawaii lifted its statewide indoor mask mandate as the number of coronavirus cases plummeted.

Although the state Department of Education has relaxed its outdoor mask policy, students and staff are still required to wear masks indoors.

However, the DOE has said it will no longer require individual identification of close contacts, notification and quarantine of school Covid exposures as long as “universal indoor masking is implemented.”

“This major change in quarantine guidelines aligns with our continued priority of keeping students learning in person,” he added.

Charter schools have also maintained the indoor mask mandate. Sheryl Turbeville, spokesperson for the state’s Public Charter Schools Commission, said no decision has been made on whether to change that.

The University of Hawaii will also continue to implement its indoor mask policy throughout the spring semester.

State education officials remain cautious as a new, highly contagious variant of omicron has arrived in Hawaii and cases have started to rise again.

The DOE reported 263 cases between April 4 and April 13, bringing the total to 185,038. The figures include students and staff on DOE campuses.

For graduation, the DOE will require masks for indoor ceremonies, although graduates may remove their masks for photos. Ceremonial attendees will also need to be fully vaccinated or present a negative Covid-19 test at least 48 hours before the ceremony, according to the department.


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