School to start online

Message from Head of School Dr. Timothy Cottrell -- Aug. 7, 2020

Dear Parents,

I want to begin with the assurance that ‘Iolani School is very well prepared to open on-campus instruction with the primary safety goal of making the likelihood of on-campus transmission of COVID-19 as low as possible.

Our theme for this school year is “Connect” and we are looking forward to engaging the student body in every possible aspect of community that makes ‘Iolani such a special place. We all miss seeing each other, students, faculty, and staff and being together on this campus achieving all that we do. It is our goal to reinstate these opportunities as soon as we can, however, as we have shared throughout this pandemic, we exist within the context of our larger community and need to take into account the state of contagion around us.

After careful consideration of the conditions in the external community, we have decided to start the school year fully online for grades K-12. We are fully prepared to deliver the comprehensive academic, social emotional and community building online framework that we used in the fourth quarter of this past school year. We will re-evaluate on a short-term regular basis in order to resume on-campus operations as soon as possible starting with the first possible reopening date of Sept. 14.

Leadership of the four large independent schools meets regularly to share our reopening strategies and analyses. Most recently, we discussed the current COVID-19 community metrics:

  • Hawaii has sustained triple digit levels of newly reported COVID-19 cases, with a 7-day average of more than 130. Our rate of new infections has increased by 200% over the last 2 weeks, with a reported reproductive rate of more than 1.4 -- currently the highest contagion rate in the country. These figures put Hawaii as a state with one of the fastest growing epidemics in the country. The test positivity has exceeded 5% several days this week, which is a level associated with WHO recommendations for governments to issue stay at home orders. See:
  • The State has indicated that there are challenges keeping up with contact tracing and that they have not always been able to follow up on new cases within their standard of 24-48 hours. There has also been uncertainty about whether the testing capacity for on-island labs can meet the demand of turning around tests in less than 3 days, which is essential to support effective contact tracing.
  • We also continue to be concerned that the number of hospitalizations doubled over the last 2 weeks, which means that our health care system will soon reach its capacity to meet both COVID and non-COVID related needs.

Given these metrics and the understanding that the current picture of COVID-19 on our island likely has a 10-day lag from yesterday’s additional restrictions, it is unlikely even more drastic restrictions would flatten the curve by Aug. 24.  On our Impact Level Scale we have placed the conditions of the State on the line between “Act with Care” and “Safer at Home.” As stated earlier, we will re-evaluate on a short-term regular basis in order to resume on-campus operations as soon as possible.

Just as we had done last year, we want to assure you that our teachers are fully prepared to implement an outstanding online learning program that includes your child's full schedule of classes and social and emotional support. A limited number of our boarding students, who have already arrived or are in transit, will reside on campus after following our safety protocols while the upper school is online. In all respects the dorm is their home.

Please be safe and let’s do everything we can to help flatten the curve and reinstate on-campus operations. We will have another great year at ‘Iolani with our greatest strength, our One Team spirit, guiding us.

With aloha,