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About 800 of Hawaii’s 12,000 public school teachers out sick

January 6, 2022 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — At least 800 Hawaii public school teachers were out sick this week, officials said.

Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said the schools are seeing disruptions because of the COVID-19 omicron variant, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

In addition to those out sick, another approximately 800 teachers were out for other reasons such as vacation time or family leave, Hayashi said. The 1,600 total absences represents about 12% of Hawaii’s 12,000 public school teachers.

“The schools are doing everything they can to cover the classrooms,” Hayashi said.

Officials want to keep all public schools open as Hawaii goes through a record surge of COVID-19 cases.

Public school students returned to class on Tuesday without being required to test. Some private schools enacted strict testing programs for students and staff. The University of Hawaii opted to hold most classes online for the start of the spring semester.

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Osa Tui Jr., head of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said some schools have counselors, security guards and other staff watching kids.

“That’s inappropriate,” he said, adding that the workers are there to “basically babysit” students in cafeterias and auditoriums.

As omicron cases are expected to rise, Hayashi sent a memo to administrators this week telling them to plan for classroom closures, the Star-Advertiser reported.