Lane doesn’t spare schools

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Principal Ken Watanabe stands Friday in one of the kindergarten rooms at Waiakea Elementary School in Hilo that was flooded because of Hurricane Lane.

Some East Hawaii schools are still drying out after Hurricane Lane dumped record rains on the area last week.

Several classrooms at Waiakea Elementary were relocated to other areas on campus after heavy rain from Lane flooded parts of the school.

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Principal Ken Watanabe said Friday that six kindergarten and special education classrooms were affected by the water.

Two of those six classrooms “weren’t affected by the flood, but I couldn’t leave those students here with the type of (repair) work that we’re going to be doing, so they were affected by that, not so much by the flood,” he said.

While repairs are underway, Watanabe said four of the school’s seven kindergarten classes have “doubled up” and are sharing a space.

“In terms of impact to students, it did impact two special education classes, and I would say all of the kindergarten classes were affected because we had to adjust some of the scheduling; we doubled up some classes,” he said. “If they weren’t part of this building and they weren’t damaged, but they received other students, they’re impacted.”

But the students remain “our foremost priority,” and the school is trying to maintain normal operations, Watanabe said.

According to Watanabe, repairs will happen in two, or possibly three, phases.

“The first phase was the removal and decontamination and treatment of the damages,” he said.

The second phase will be replacing the carpet, and a possible third phase would include work on wood panels in some of the classroom if they don’t dry properly.

While there’s no timeline in place, Watanabe said he hopes the repair work can be completed by the end of September, and with so much community support, “I think we can get to that end-of-the-month target.”

Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Superintendent Chad Keone Farias said the teachers have been great. Despite “working in less than ideal conditions, they’re keeping spirits up for kids. I’m sure their morale has been helped by the fact that we moved so quickly.”

And with visits from legislators and Gov. David Ige earlier this week, “they see that people are paying attention,” he said.

Other schools also saw impacts from the rains last week.

Farias said while more water flowed through Hilo High School than Waiakea Elementary, the water did more damage at Waiakea.

Elsewhere in the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area and the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area, which he also oversees, Farias said the Hilo Intermediate School shop, Keaau High School’s E building and Keaau Middle School’s new science building all took on some water but were cleaned up.

Waiakea High School had six classrooms that took “quite a bit of water,” but school administrators worked throughout the weekend and were there on (Friday, Aug. 24) to get sandbags in place “so when additional rain come on Saturday, they were pretty much prepared,” Farias said.

“We continue to learn,” he said. “We’ve learned from every storm we’ve encountered, learned from volcanic activity and how to try to respond to these natural disasters.”

In this case, Farias said the biggest lesson school leaders learned is the need to establish a “cycle of maintenance” for culverts and drains.

“If we had one, Waiakea Elementary would not have had water come through their classrooms.”

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Updates from Waiakea Elementary can be found by following the school’s Twitter account at twitter.com/Waiakea_Royals.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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