homepage logo

Lahainaluna teachers and students thriving in new learning model

By BY WALTER CHIHARA - | Oct 2, 2020

Lahainaluna High School is led by (from left) Vice Principals Ilima Greig-Hong, Ian Haskins and Denise Tabbada, and Principal Jeri Dean.

LAHAINA — The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a myriad of hurdles to our daily lives, and near the top of that daunting list is public education. 

With prevention protocols mandated throughout school systems across the nation and here in the islands, governing boards and administrators were forced to adapt on the run to the untested formulas of virtual learning models a month ago as the fall term began. 

Led by the administrative team of Temporary Acting Principal Jeri Dean and Vice Principals Ian Haskins, Ilima Greig-Hong and Denise Tabbada, as well as Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch, Lahainaluna High School has pushed through the first session of the 2020-21 school year using a unique virtual learning model unofficially dubbed the “summer school system.”

Parent Community Networking Center (PCNC) Facilitator Leslie Hiraga explained that the LHS model uses the summer school system of students studying one subject for five weeks at a time. In this pandemic model, virtual learning via the internet concentrated on one subject five days a week for five weeks.

Students met online with their teachers for one to two hours a day, and then spent the remainder of the particular class time — usually around two hours — with research and project learning.

The system, unique to Lahainaluna, puts the students in concentrated learning modules for five weeks at a time.

“The students will take one subject period for five weeks each, like summer school,” explained Hiraga last week. “With seven such sessions, this equates to the required 24 credits required for graduation. Each student registered for seven classes plus one elective.”

“The whole theory is one teacher for one group of 18 students for the entire session for maximum tracing and safety. Before the school year began, Lahainaluna proposed a college model like traditional summer school that formed the five-week blended system in place.”

There have been many obstacles to hurdle, but Hiraga senses a rhythm has emerged as the first session ended last week.

“It’s all new with many challenges to meet. There are computers available for student use; the Computer Lab is open on campus; Wi-Fi solutions are available; study packets can be mailed, picked up or delivered to students; attendance is taken; and grades are recorded,” she explained.

“Some parents and students were confused or limited in the beginning, and at-risk students can come to school for in-person learning to keep them from falling through the cracks. At first, the virtual learning was difficult, but everyone has made great strides to make it work. The administrative staff and the counselors have been awesome in focusing on student safety and well-being. The custodial staff has been particularly focused and hard-working, with campus safety foremost in their effort.”

Ironically, Principal Dean reported that school attendance at Lahainaluna is up to 90 percent, and this is the best it’s been in quite a while.

“Our head custodian worked all through the summer to sanitize all the classrooms and keep up the standards all the time, as safety for everyone — students, teachers, staff, and families — is most important. And communication is vital between the student/families and the school counselors. E-mail and/or phone contact is most important in the case of emergencies. Again, safety and welfare of students is most important,” Dean said.

“The academic success rate is higher, and students seem to be thriving in this model. Teachers are getting to know the students better, and we are receiving positive feedback from all concerned. We owe it to the teachers for making the positive shift to the new learning model — it has been a huge learning curve for all involved.

“This success is based on the improved attendance, academic success and the emotional and social well-being of the students. We are extremely grateful to the community and families for their gentle and supportive role in helping us successfully reopen the school,” Principal Dean concluded.