The Hawaii Department of Education is trying to solve two major problems for the state in one move.

The first problem is a shortage of school staff. Everything from food service to the substitute pool is so short-handed that schools are struggling to run. According to state interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi, the system needs roughly a hundred more substitute teachers than it has every single day.

The second problem is a surplus of hotel workers. While tourist venues throughout the Hawaiian islands have reopened, many hotels, which operate on tight profit margins, didn’t survive the long closure. Thousands of hotel workers have no jobs to return to.

The Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) and the Unite Here Local 5 Union, which represents over 9,000 hospitality workers, are teaming up.

“A great number of our members and their households are out of work since March 2020,” said union spokesperson Bryant De Venecia. “DOE needed help spreading the message, especially the temp positions.”

“If [hospitality unions] have employees that meet minimum requirements, and are interested, we are making a very concerted effort to get these individuals in as quickly as possible,” Hayashi said this weekend at the annual Parents for Public Schools Hawaii meeting.

Currently, schools are making do with measures like having higher-level administration staff fill in for kitchen workers or assigning a single substitute teacher to babysit four classes. The overwork has further depleted the supply, as many substitutes are no longer willing to work at the worst-affected schools.

What concerns many parents is that, due to this, the eligibility requirement for substitute teachers has been lowered to a high school diploma, a flexible schedule, and a background check. But that is an emergency state of affairs, not a long-term change. The DOE is still pursuing qualified teachers to fill out the educator positions, even offering incentive packages to teachers from the mainland willing to relocate.

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