Rallying to cool Laie El’s hottest classrooms


From students to parents to BYU engineers to energy efficiency experts, a community unites to solve the problem of trapped heat in classrooms at their local school.

​Leveraging community support, the parents and guardians at Laie Elementary cooled the school’s hottest classrooms this month by installing insulation in the attics. Their plan took less than one month from conception to installation and impacts 175 children in seven classrooms.

Some 15 volunteers gathered at the school and installed the spray fiberglass insulation in about 14 hours over the span of two days, while students were on fall break. Fueled by monetary donations, and free labor and equipment, the project did not cost Laie Elementary any money, said school Vice Principal Eliza Elkington.

Following phase one of the Keep Laie Cool project, students returned to:

  • a 24-degree drop in ceiling temperature from 110 degrees before insulation to 86 degrees after insulation
  • a 12-degree dip in classroom temperatures from 98 degrees pre-insulation to 86 degrees post- insulation.

Keep Laie Cool launched in mid-September, spearheaded by Jennifer Kajiyama, a concerned parent of a first-grader, and Carol Feinga, a community member and the aunt of a student. In about two weeks’ time, their heavily promoted online site raised $6,100 in donations. The insulation material cost $2,800.

Project volunteers numbered about 50, ranging from two boys aged 6 and 8, who sold star fruit from their home garden and raised $90, to an 8-year-old girl who made bracelets and sold them for $1. Some helpers were in their 70s. Les Harper of Brigham Young University-Hawaii led the volunteers, who installed the insulation. Prior to that, his team of BYU engineers and local solar companies conducted a heat study, which found that:

  • on the hottest days, classroom temperatures reached 113 degrees
  • the buildings and electrical wiring were old and unable to handle air-conditioning units
  • the hottest buildings on campus lacked insulation
  • on the coolest days, classroom temperatures reached 96 degrees
  • there are very few trees on campus

Future plans are to install perforated mesh banners on one school building’s second floor and solar attic fans in the portables. One day is set aside to plant trees to block direct sunlight from specific areas of school buildings. These phases will cost about $15,000 total and their target completion date is by year's end.

“I am appreciative of the time and effort that the volunteers have put into this campaign,” Elkington said. “Rather than complaining about a long-standing issue, they looked for realistic and quick solutions. Their enthusiasm for these cooling projects is contagious.”

“I am in awe of the productiveness and solutions-oriented approach taken by these parents to cool their school,” said Matt Ho, Castle-Kahuku complex area superintendent. “The amount of school support from parents, guardians and the community is humbling.”

Contact Information

Jorene Barut

Phone: 808-233-5700

Email: jorene_barut@hawaiidoe.org


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