3 Lahaina Schools to Reopen 2 Months After Fire
Three schools have undergone extensive air, drinking water, and soil quality testing while a fourth was burned beyond repair.
Lahaina officials announced Tuesday that three out of its four public schools are set to reopen later this month following the devastating Aug. 8 fire that destroyed most of the historic town and killed at least 97 people.
Lahainaluna High School is expected to reopen on Oct. 16, followed by Lahaina Intermediate on Oct. 17 and Princess and Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary on Oct. 18, The 74 reports. The state Department of Education (DOE) said the schools have undergone extensive air, drinking water, and soil quality testing. All large debris has also been removed from the schools and they are undergoing professional cleaning.
The remaining public school, King Kamehameha III Elementary, was burned beyond repair. Princess Nahi’ena’ena will serve its original population as well as students formerly enrolled in King Kamehameha III. A temporary campus is being built to replace King Kamehameha III at Pulelehua, a mixed-use development located between Kaanapali and Napili. Colonel Jesse T. Curry of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the school should be ready in about 95 days. State DOE Superintendent Keith Hayashi said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will fund the $5.36 million project. The lease is set for three years.
“Our hope is that by providing the reopening dates, with about three weeks of lead time, families can use this information to make decisions that are in the best interest for their situation,” said Hayashi.
Parents voiced concerns over sending their children back to Lahaina schools due to potentially unsafe air and soil quality. Kenneth Fink, director of the state Department of Health, said the drinking water and soil at all three schools are safe. Despite all three campuses consistently reporting good air quality, Fink said the department will continue to monitor the air for any residual ash.
“We’re very happy to be at this point that we can confidently say it’s safe for students and staff to return,” said Fink.
The DOE estimates that out of the nearly 3,000 students who were enrolled at four Lahaina public schools prior to the fire, 1,757 of them had not enrolled in another public school or opted for distance learning, according to Maui Now. Others enrolled in schools elsewhere on Maui or have taken a pause while they await the reopening of their Lahaina campus. The DOE opened a distance learning hub at the Citizen Church in West Maui where children taking online classes can get in-person support. The hub is set to close on Thursday.
Demand for distance learning spiked in late August and early September, with the program increasing by around 500 Maui students as some parents sought alternatives to enrolling their children in schools that were taking in displaced students, Civil Beat reports. At the peak of interest in distance learning, Teri Ushijima, assistant superintendent for the DOE’s Office of Curriculum and Instructional Design, said new students had to wait three to four weeks to start their programs as the DOE ordered 400 more Chromebooks and assigned Lahaina educators to online classes.
Families have been told they can continue virtual learning or keep their children enrolled in central and south Maui schools. In August, DOE spokesperson Nanea Kalani said there is no timeline or mandate for students impacted by the fire to enroll.
“We know folks are in different places. We know that some are not ready to take advantage of the options available,” she said. “We’re not forcing anybody. We’re highly encouraging them to enroll if they’re able to and they’re ready to, but we’re not mandating that they must enroll.”
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