The Facilities Maintenance Branch (FMB) at the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) helps Hawaii's public schools with a variety of services, including minor repairs and maintenance on school campuses. FMB also played a significant role in helping schools prepare during Hawaii's annual hurricane season, which officially ended last month.
Hurricanes Lane (August) and Olivia (September) threatened widespread damage. Both were downgraded to tropical storms as they approached the Islands. Olivia hit Maui, Lane drenched the Big Island with flooding rains, but both storms fell short of dire predictions.
Public school staff secured its campuses and offices on each island. Teachers helped to prepare their classrooms and unplugged electrical devices, while custodial staff members brought in rubbish cans and tied down loose items outside.
"Having schools plan and prepare their campuses ahead of time helps to minimize damage and eliminate preventable problems," said Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent, Office of School Facilities and Support Services. "It also allows students to return to the classroom and resume their studies in a timely fashion after the storm has passed."
On Oahu, schools were calling for sandbags to divert potential floodwaters. FMB filled hundreds of woven polypropylene bags with sand to meet the need after determining there weren't enough available in stores.
"Sand is used often to fill holes and make concrete, so we had it readily available at our base yard," explained FMB administrator Francis Cheung. "We created 300 sandbags until stores had restocked its supply in the afternoon. Then we purchased about 600 bags to fulfill the requests that we received."
FMB used forklifts to load the bags onto heavy-duty trucks and promptly delivered them to HIDOE's Windward District Office and 21 schools across Oahu prior to the arrival of Hurricane Lane, which was approaching as a Category 4. The forecast looked as though it could bring once-in-a-lifetime rains and ocean surge. Schools including Leihoku Elementary in Waianae requested help to protect classrooms and offices.
"The quick turnaround by the Department's Facilities Maintenance Branch played a key role in helping us to protect our campus from potential flooding," added Randall Miura, Leihoku Elementary School principal. "We're very grateful for their prompt response and the sandbags we received."
Even though Hawaii's hurricane season is officially over, Cheung said help is always available. No matter what time of year it is, FMB supports schools on Oahu, while the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) provides support and maintenance for neighbor island schools. "Helping out this past hurricane season is simply an example of what we do to keep our schools maintained and in operation."