(ABOVE PHOTO) file image of Honokaa school taken about one month ago
HONOKAA, Hawaii – All three schools in Honokaa are being closed for the day and students are being sent home, due to a chemical odor.
UPDATE: Police now report Pakalana Street in Honokaa is open. (1:45 p.m.)
UPDATE: The Hawaii Department of Education had more information afterwards: (2:00 p.m.)
Students at Honokaa Elementary and Honokaa High & Intermediate were sent home at around 10:45 a.m. today due to a strong chemical odor that affected about 50 people at the High & Intermediate school. According to hazardous materials (HAZMAT) investigators, the odor was traced to a nearby resident who was using a mix of chemicals to spray his yard.
Honokaa High & Intermediate school officials notified the Hawaii County Fire Department of the chemical odor shortly after 9 a.m. Fire HAZMAT crews arrived on scene and advised school officials to evacuate the schools due to the strong odor. School officials immediately notified parents and coordinated early student bus transportation.
About 40 students and 10 adults from Honokaa High & Intermediate school who reported feeling symptoms of nausea, dizziness and respiratory problems were sent to nearby medical centers for treatment. There were no reports of medical issues at Honokaa Elementary, which is located across the street from the High & Intermediate school.
Investigators advised school officials of the source of the smell at 11:15 a.m.
The schools will resume their regular schedules tomorrow. Honokaa Elementary enrolls some 364 students while about 600 students attend Honokaa High & Intermediate.Hawaii DOE media release
Honokaa Elementary, Intermediate and High Schools are being evacuated. Police say students who ride the bus are being bused home. “For students who don’t ride the bus,” the police alert read, “parents may pick up High School and Intermediate students on Mamane Street and Elementary School students on Pakalana Street.”
Pakalana Street is closed to everyone else, police report.
The Fire Department’s Haz-Mat team is responding. The Department of Education will provide parents with additional information by telephone. The public is advised to avoid the area unless they are picking up students.
UPDATE: The Honokaa Elementary School website has posted the following set of emergency notices:
Emergency Notice 9/18 @ 10:05am
Due to an unidentified smell at the east end of Honoka’a High School, all children and staff were relocated to the cafeteria as a safety precaution. Everyone is safe, and emergency personnel are addressing the situation. We will keep you posted as the situation develops.
EMERGENCY Notice #2 @ 10:32
As a precation, ALL students will be sent home. Please drive up the gravel road (on the Waipi’o side of the school), come to the school office to sign your children out and the pick up your child at the school cafeteria. Buses are on the way to pick up those students that ride the bus and take them home.
EMERGENCY NOTICE #3 @ 11:15
As of 11:15, all students not picked up or riding the bus will be in the Honoka’a cafeteria. Please come through the gravel road on the Waipi’o side of the school and walk to the cafeteria to meet your child (ren). Hazmat is still investigating the cause of the noxious odor.
Emergency Notice #4 @ 11:50pm
Honokaa Elementary School is now closed. All remaining students will be at the Honokaa Sports Complex. Please meet us there to pick up your child.Honokaa Elementary School website on Sept. 18
Big Island Video News will share more information on this page as it becomes available.