Transforming an entire public education system during a pandemic is no small feat. We started this school year with teachers and students embracing online learning. Last year, the Legislature established a School Facilities Agency to bring our aging school buildings into the modern era. Even before the pandemic, the new agency was viewed as an exciting new initiative that will also provide jobs and economic opportunities for Hawai‘i. The School Facilities Agency is a first step in maximizing school lands by building teacher housing, childcare facilities, after-school centers and other uses that are compatible with school facilities. It’s also part of a larger recovery plan, which I will get into shortly. Building new schools also means jobs and is an integral part of our recovery and resiliency efforts. Working with all stakeholders, we plan to aggressively move forward on three pilot projects to serve as a model for the schools of the future.
During this pandemic, we’ve been forced to not only rethink the classroom but to take instruction beyond its walls. We’ve had to ask teachers to look for other ways to teach. And we‘ve had to ask parents and students to take a more active role in their own education. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has shown us that it does take an entire village to educate a child.
In addition, the University of Hawai‘i is also combining distance and in-person learning for its 50,000 students across all campuses. They are doing this while continuing to maintain a research engine generating more than $400 million for our economy.