Recent communications from Dr. Cottrell on reopening

Message from Head of School Dr. Timothy Cottrell -- emailed on Sept. 17, 2020

Dear Parents,

Tomorrow, after a 6-month COVID hiatus, The 'Iolani faculty and staff will once again be together on campus. Next week, as we return to in-person instruction, we will do so with a mixture of excitement, optimism, dedication, caution and concern. We are a thoughtful community and as such, evaluating all sides of a situation is in our DNA. This strength will serve us well as we meet the many challenges of safely returning to campus. 

Community conditions have come under control and met the WHO guideline for a safe reopening. The details are below in Figures 1 and 2. For the coming days, community numbers are expected to be stable with the caveat that there might be a short uptick associated with Labor Day. Similarly, because of the “Stay at Home” order, conditions are also expected to be stable for the first weeks of our reopening. This time period is a great opportunity to become familiar with, used to and confident in our prevention strategies.

In the weeks and months beyond, we should expect community numbers to fluctuate and at times be outside of the range we used to reopen. Reopening most schools, commerce, tourism, and the return of college students from the mainland could all result in an increase in community COVID levels. While we will not be overly reactive to these expected variances, we will be very attentive to the situation on a daily basis and continue to use projections in an effort to stay ahead of future conditions.

As One Team, we will support, keep each other safe and overcome the many challenges of educating the mind, body and spirit of young people during the pandemic. 


Figure 1: Percentage of Positive Cases from the Issue-driven Test Pool
This is the HIEMA data that Dr. Josh Green has shared for the past months. During the time in which issue-driven and surge testing results were combined, an estimate of the issue-driven only percentage of positive cases was calculated. 

  • The average daily percentage of positive issue-driven tests since Labor Day = 4.58%
  • 5 of the 6 most recent data points are below the WHO’s 5% criterion.

Figure 2: Comparison of Three Community COVID Condition Data Sources
HIEMA issue-driven, HIEMA combined issue-driven/surge and DOH combined issue-driven/surge data are plotted for the past 24 days. At this time, each data set meets the WHO guidelines and continues to project stable and controlled conditions as is expected from the “Stay at Home” intervention. 


  • Blue: HIEMA issue-driven data is the same as described in Figure 1. The average daily percentage of positive issue-driven tests since Labor Day = 4.58%. 5 of the 6 most recent data points are below the WHO’s 5% criterion.
  • Orange: Pooled HIEMA data has a post Labor Day average percentage of positive tests = 3.73%. 8 out of the most recent 9 data points meet the WHO guidelines.
  • Gray: Pooled DOH data has a post Labor Day average percentage of positive tests = 2.85%. 9 out of the most recent 9 data points meet the WHO guidelines.


Message from Head of School Dr. Timothy Cottrell -- emailed on Sept. 9, 2020

Dear Parents,

Many of you have inquired if yesterday’s extension of the "Safer at Home" period will affect our reopening timeline. Namely that 9/21 to 9/23 overlaps with the final days of the extension.

Our reopening plan was constructed to conform to the stipulations and restrictions in the Executive Order and the associated Interpretive Guidance Memo issued by the city. Specifically, schools are allowed to undertake essential functions that cannot be done remotely. 

Our first full day for the entire campus is on Friday, September 25 - two days after the extended safer at home order ends. This is considered the first day of standard on-campus operations.

As you know, we will be on campus for 4 days prior to this in an E/F schedule during which half the student body will be in attendance. Specific details for students returning to campus and those in our fully online program will be communicated by the Divisional Deans. The focus of these 4 days is to orient the students, faculty, and staff, and normalize all of the new safety procedures and protocols.  This is an essential period of training that includes learning our new safety procedures; instruction in the use of PPE, continuous hygiene practices, understanding foot traffic patterns for our walkways, hallways, staircases, and classrooms, becoming familiar with our new designated outdoor spaces, and classroom layouts, covering our daily health check-in requirements and using our new QR code tracking system. The orientation and safety training period is not an activity that can be performed remotely.

In these ways, our orientation period and the first full day of campus operations align with the order and the rigorousness of the safety measures we will use on campus as per our reopening plan are consistent with the current high level of community precautions. We are also in communication with the Mayor's office about the particulars of our reopening plan.

Our goal remains to conduct school in a manner in which we largely mitigate the possibility of COVID 19 transmission (the many procedures and protocols) while providing our students with the academic and social and emotional benefits of on-campus instruction.

The daily positive issue-driven test percentage continues to trend toward meeting our reopening criterion. We will continue to monitor the situation and communicate on a regular basis in the coming days. 



Message from Head of School Dr. Timothy Cottrell -- emailed on Sept. 7, 2020

Dear Parents,

Thank you all for your patience, perseverance, and commitment to your children’s education. Many of you have heard me say that our ability to accomplish what we do at ‘Iolani is because we do this in partnership with you.

As you know, we have been actively preparing for on-campus operations for months and recent community conditions over the past couple of months required us to start the school year online. In prior communications, I have shared that we would evaluate 9/14 as a potential start date for on-campus operations and that we are using the WHO criterion of 5% community positive tests as the basis on which to make this decision. The analysis below (Basis of the Decision) shows that a projection of the percent of positive issue-driven cases has us meeting the WHO 5% community level in the coming weeks. We can, therefore, make a decision today that puts us in a good position to be well-prepared and safe when we come back on campus.

The School has therefore made the decision to reopen on-campus operations on Monday, September 21, 2020.

What students and families should expect - 9/8-9/18 

  • Instruction and learning will continue online through 9/17. There will be no school on Friday, 9/18 as teachers use this day to prepare for campus reopening on 9/21.
  • Families should begin to make the daily health check-in through the Magnus mobile app a part of their morning routine. Magnus is the same company we use for the submission of annual health forms.  Your username and password will be the same for the app. From the app store, download ʻMagnus mobile v2ʻ then click HERE for instructions on how to get started ASAP.
  • Students should begin getting used to wearing a face mask and face shield for lengthy periods of time. Practice eating lunch with the face shield on.
  • Watch for communications from the school with further reopening details
  • Our schedule in the upper and lower schools for the week of 9/14 will shift since we are still online. These changes will be updated in each student’s zoom scheduler. The letter days for the week will be:
    • Monday 9/14 - Schedule A
    • Tuesday 9/15 - Schedule B
    • Wednesday 9/16 - Schedule C
    • Thursday 9/17 - Schedule D
    • Friday 9/18 - No Classes. Teachers will use the day to finalize preparations for on-campus instruction on 9/21. 

Getting Oriented for Campus Reopening

Lower School families will receive an invitation to a webinar about the details related to the opening of campus operations, including drop off and pick up, daily routines, and more.

On Friday, 9/18, we will send an instructional video to Upper School students that will describe what they can expect when they come to school the following week. On Saturday, 9/19, we will run our 7th grade and new student orientation on campus. A time preference for orientation day will be sent out this week. For our seniors, we hope to have them back on campus this same weekend for a chance to reconnect and see the set-up for the year. Their class advisers and officers will send out information later this week.

The First Week of School On-Campus, 9/21 – 9/28

Lower School
The first two days of on-campus instruction for the lower school will only include half of each homeroom, 1-6.  This will allow us to orient students to their drop-off, pick-up, recess, and lunch areas, new procedures for play during morning and lunch recesses, proper use of PPE, transitions, and traffic patterns to and from specials, and cleaning protocol on campus.  Kindergarten will follow the standard half-day/half group, full-day/half group, and full-day/full group for the first four days. On Friday of the first week back, all lower school students will be on campus.  We will run two special specials on Monday, 9/21, and Tuesday, 9/22.

Families can expect to hear from the lower school by Wednesday, 9/9, with more specific information about the first week of school including which days your child/children will come to campus.

Upper School
The first four days of on-campus instruction for the upper school will only include half of each grade level, 7-12. Click for the attendance schedule for Upper School students. This will allow us to orient students to the proper use of PPE, cleaning protocol on campus, new traffic patterns in buildings, tent locations for lunch and free periods, procedures and locations for lunch pick-up, and our new QR code check-in system. Please watch for more communications about reopening on-campus operations in the coming days and weeks.

Basis of the Decision

The below charts show the trend in daily positive issue-driven tests. These are the results that were regularly reported prior to the onset of surge testing.

Current state-released data combines the pools of issue-driven tests with surge tests. It is possible, however, to calculate an estimated separation of the data and thus be consistent in tracking the issue-driven test number. This is important because the number of positive issue-driven tests project to require an 11% hospitalization rate. The surge pool represents a lower risk for future hospitalization because it is capturing non-issue-driven cases.

We are using the issue-driven test results because it likely represents the highest rate of infection in our community (this is the most conservative data from which to evaluate safe community conditions) and it also aligns us with the community constraint of ICU beds.

The following assumptions were used to separate currently reported data.

  1. The average number of issue-driven tests from past history = 2,330 tests
  2. The percentage of positive surge tests = .7% (State reported)
  3. The reported daily percentage of positive tests, P, represents a combination of both pools

Total positive test balance equation: 
(P/100)(total daily tests) = (.007)(total daily tests – 2,330 tests) + Y(2,300 tests) Y(100%) = the percentage of positive issue-driven tests

For example, on 9/5, there were 8,405 tests (issue-driven and surge) with a positive rate of 2.63%. Given the above assumptions, this breaks down to and estimate of:

  • Total tests: 8,405
  • Total positive cases: 221
  • Number of surge tests: 6,075
  • Percentage of positive surge tests: .7%
  • Number of surge cases: 43
  • Number of issue-drives tests: 2,330
  • Percentage of issue-driven tests: 7.66%
  • Number of issue-driven cases: 178
  • Projected number of hospitalizations: 19-20

Below is a linear regression of the estimated percentage of positive issue-driven tests from 8/28 to now. As is shown, the community contagion conditions begin to enter what we consider (based on the WHO criterion of 5% community positive) to be safe for on-campus operations around 9/14.

Choosing to open on-campus operations on 9/21 provides additional time for the community conditions to stabilize in this range and for us to be well-prepared to come back to campus.

Possible extension of the voluntary stay-at-home order

As you will see in the data below, these first two weeks of our voluntary stay-at-home process have already resulted in a decline of positive cases and, by all indications this trend will continue into our plans to reopen on 9/21. If the stay-at-home order is extended past 9/9 this will only further the safer conditions for our return on 9/21 and the order does allow for on-campus school operations. Several schools have either opened already or are also planning to in the next two weeks.

Mahalo and all the best in health, happiness, and safety,