Mask Optional Policy in Hawaiʻi Public Schools
Mask Optional Policy in Hawaiʻi Public Schools
Why this petition matters
Towards Mask Optional Schools with the Aloha Spirit
We welcome Gov. Ige’s announcement to sunset indoor masking mandates for the State of Hawaii on the 25th of March and shift to a recommendation / guidance based public health model. We also commend DOE for relaxing and shifting our keiki’s rights to allow masks to be optional outside on school grounds, sporting events, recess, and during meal times.
We however strongly encourage the state to empower parents, children and schools to take these DOH / CDC masking recommendations for indoor settings to shift from public school indoor masks mandates to make masks optional based on individual circumstances.
Children continue to experience disproportionate restrictions, struggle with unprecedented challenges to social-emotional learning, and the costs are mounting and shifting to a mask optional culture will enable focused protection while encouraging the success of our children.
Individual families can determine respective risk ratios and choose instead if they choose to mask or not mask (Also which type of mask if they choose to). A mask optional educational setting is in line with our spirit and culture of aloha.
Indefinite long term masking of the lowest risk demographic in our population has created an epidemic of mental health challenges that we are now only beginning to face.
Here are some points that will help us be respectful of each other’s choices:
Why is this the time to make masks’ optional?
Restoring normal childhood is a social, emotional and psychological imperative, based on the balance of today’s evidence.
Vaccination rates are extremely high; data from the most recent surge shows that vaccination significantly protects against severe disease. Case rates are down, and, more important, hospitalization rates stayed relatively low throughout the surge and are very low now.
Masks have their own impacts, both on our students' ability to learn, especially in our island’s multilingual environments, and on our ability to connect with each other as people. Each of us has seen first-hand the impact of this experience on mental health and on students' social and emotional development. We wore masks because they were necessary in an emergency situation; we never thought they should be a permanent addition to our childrens’ education. The risk-benefit balance has changed, and each day matters in our students' lives. It is important to allow this choice now.
I’m still worried about others removing their masks - What should I do?
COVID poses little risk of serious disease for most students, and vaccines are available for school-aged children. COVID is a flu-like risk for unvaccinated children. Extraordinary measures in schools are not justified and our island community can shift to individual risk tolerance. It is important to remember vaccinated children have almost no risk of severe disease. Teachers remain well protected by vaccination, with boosters important in older age groups.
I want my child to wear a mask. What should I do?
Families may have a variety of different approaches to masking and are welcome to share their mask practices with the community. The community and island can aim to support mask-wearing children in consistent usage without allowing mask enforcement to be a focus of the teacher-student relationships. The community should also intervene clearly and firmly if a student or anyone else attempts to influence another student's mask choice. We should disavow mask bullying of any type.
Our family has special risks. What should I do?
As we move forward in the pandemic, the progress we are making allows us to shift our energy towards focusing on support for those who need it most. If you have special needs we recommend you touch base with your caregiver to explore the best ways to protect your family.
Throughout the pandemic, we have had to respond to ongoing changes in health policy in order to deliver the essential function as a school. We have been successful in taking care of our community by working together toward the same goal: to serve our children in the best way we can while taking care of our island.
The shift to a mask optional culture is inline with the policies our keiki will encounter outside of school and will allow us to reclaim fully the experience of school for the students and faculty while preserving the individual rights of parent students to choose their respective levels of protection.
Maintaining in-person learning is critical for protecting our students and there is no scientific justification for treating students differently based on vaccination or mask status. Escalating COVID rules are harmful and we should normalize the daily school experience as much as possible.
Please sign this petition to support optional indoor mask policies for Hawaiʻi public school students.
Thank you for helping to support our public school keiki.