After weeks of comprehensive air, drinking water and soil quality testing at the three Lāhainā campuses affected by the Aug. 8, 2023 wildfires, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE) is set to bring students back to the Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena Elementary, Lāhainā Intermediate and Lāhaināluna High campuses as part of a phased reopening plan starting Oct. 16.
Gov. Josh Green, M.D., Superintendent Keith Hayashi and state Health Department Director Dr. Kenneth Fink announced the reopening plans Tuesday at a news conference in Lāhainā. Officials emphasized that the campuses are safe for staff and students to return.
“Central to our healing is to have education for our keiki. It is time to get our students back in school, to provide our students and families a return to a sense of at least interim normalcy,” Gov. Green said.
Professional cleaning of all interior spaces is complete at Lāhainā Intermediate and Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena Elementary schools, and is underway at Lāhaināluna. Professional exterior cleaning is being scheduled for all three schools.
We have done extensive environmental testing in the weeks since the fires, taking a close look at air quality, drinking water quality, and whether or not the grounds and soil at the three schools are safe for students and employees,” Superintendent Hayashi said. “We have worked very hard with experts in these different areas using specialized contractors and county, state, and federal resources to handle the testing and review and confirm the results.”
The results of the soil testing, which was conducted by an independent firm to detect the presence of heavy metals and dioxins, have been reviewed in consultation with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH). The soil at all three schools does not pose a public health risk and the campuses are safe for students and staff to return, according to the DOH.
External air quality sensors have also been installed at the three campuses, with results publicly reported at fire.airnow.gov, and water testing data for the three schools from Maui County’s Department of Water Supply indicated "non-detect" for "all volatile compounds." Additional air quality monitors are being installed on each of the campuses this week.
“We continue to support the DOE and we can confidently say it is safe for students to return to the three campuses,” said State Health Director Dr. Kenneth S. Fink. “The data collected from air, drinking water, and soil testing all indicate it is safe to return.”
To ensure a smooth transition, the HIDOE will bring students back in phases.
The last day for Lāhaināluna students and staff sharing a campus with Kūlanihākoʻi High School will be Oct. 5. Faculty and staff will report to the Lāhaināluna campus on Oct. 6 for a work day with no students. Following fall break, which runs from Oct. 9 to 13, students will return to their home campus on Oct. 16. It will also be the school’s Homecoming Week and the first Lunas football home game is scheduled for Oct. 21 versus Baldwin High’s Bears.
Lāhainā Intermediate faculty and staff will report to the Lāhainā Intermediate campus starting Oct. 6. Students will report to that campus on Tuesday, Oct. 17.
King Kamehameha III, Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary
King Kamehameha III and Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary faculty and staff will report to the Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena campus starting Oct. 6. Elementary students will return on Wednesday, Oct. 18.
Students and staff from King Kamehameha III Elementary, which was damaged beyond repair, will be sharing campus facilities with Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena until a planned temporary school site being developed near Kapalua Airport is open. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is funding the project while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is handling construction and estimates it could take at least 95 days to complete.
"This school may be temporary but will stand as a reminder that, despite the grief and loss, these children will have a space to continue to learn, to dream and to thrive. We are proud to be here for them in this moment,” said Col. Jesse T. Curry, Recovery Field Office commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- Oct. 5 - Last day for Lāhaināluna students at Kūlanihāko‘i High School and students at distance learning and special education hubs
- Oct. 6 - Lāhainā schools faculty and staff work day
- Oct. 9-13 - Fall break for teachers and students
- Oct. 15 - Lāhaināluna boarding students move into dormitories
- Oct. 16 - Lāhaināluna students report to campus
- Oct. 17 - Lāhainā Intermediate students report to campus
- Oct. 18 - King Kamehameha III and Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary students report to Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena campus
- Oct. 21 - Lāhaināluna homecoming football game against Baldwin
“Our hope is that by providing the reopening dates with about three weeks of lead time, families can use the information to make decisions that are best for their situation,” Superintendent Hayashi said.
The Department is assessing distance learning options and the transition plan for its West Maui learning hubs.
Families of children who are enrolled in any of the three Lāhainā schools are encouraged to fill out an online form by Oct. 8 on what they plan to do when campuses reopen.
Gov. Green and Superintendent Hayashi also announced on Tuesday that the planned site for a temporary replacement school for King Kamehameha III Elementary will be at Pulelehua, a mixed-use development project being built below Kapalua Airport in Honokōwai.
The $5.36 million project will be located on a 10.2-acre site that is centrally located for communities within the attendance boundaries for King Kamehameha III, which includes Kā‘anapali, Kahana, Honokōwai, Nāpili and Kapalua.
FEMA is providing funding upfront and USACE will be responsible for all site work, including roads, utilities, connection to water and wastewater, and construction of all structures.
The facilities are being designed as a short-term site and will recreate the square footage, capacity and common spaces of the former King Kamehameha III campus. The state is working with USACE to finalize the design of the modular units.
King Kamehameha III Elementary will share a campus with Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary until the Pulelehua site is complete and will operate from the temporary campus until a permanent campus is built.