KEAAU – The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) will begin the planning process to reopen Keonepoko Elementary School in Hawaiian Beaches now that lava is no longer an immediate threat to the area. The planning will also include addressing all of the adjustments made in October 2014 that affected 1,700 students and 300 employees.
“Many families were affected by our contingency plans to safeguard access to education and we appreciate their cooperation and understanding through all of it,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We now have a ton of details to work out before making any official announcement on dates or assignments, however it is important to let families and staff know where we stand. The decision to reopen Keonepoko Elementary extends beyond just the facility. We want to be very thoughtful about our approach.”
The decisions affecting employees will be made in consultation with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers union. In upcoming weeks, principals in the Kau-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area and DOE administrators will map out a course of action. The DOE is aiming to have details solidified by May to provide families ample time to plan for School Year 2015-16.
In late October 2014, DOE closed Keonepoko Elementary in response to the rapidly advancing lava flow. It was determined then that the lava would be crossing Highway 130. DOE built a temporary facility in the Keaau High lower parking lot and adjusted classroom assignments for students and staff within the complex area.
Recently the lava flow changed in threat status from ‘warning’ to ‘watch.’ Hawaii County Civil Defense has informed the Department that based on the most current information available the lava is no longer headed toward Pahoa.
Complex Area Superintendent Chad Farias stated, “We continue to evaluate what all possible futures might be for the education of children within Puna and are thinking not just about the current situation, but how to provide quality education to all of the families in our area for years to come.”
The DOE will provide more information to its staff and the public once it is available.
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