PUNA – Students in lower Puna who were reassigned to different schools because of the threat of the June 27 lava flow last October will return to their original school starting next year.
Two weeks ago, the Hawaii Department of Education announced that Keonepoko Elementary School will reopen next school year, following a hasty closure in October 2014. At the time, it appeared certain that lava from the Pu’u o’o vent would cross Highway 130, cutting off lower Puna from important services. That never happened; Keonepoko was spared.
Now, the DOE says Keonepoko Elementary “will welcome back students to its campus in Hawaiian Beaches and all public school students in the Kea’au, Ka’u, Pahoa (KKP) complex area will start the 2015-16 school year in their geographically determined schools.”
Schools that experienced a shift in students and staff include Pahoa Elementary, Pahoa High & Intermediate, Kea’au Elementary, Kea’au Middle, Kea’au High, Keonepoko Elementary, and Mountain View Elementary.
The DOE understands that some may have gotten comfortable at their new schools.
We realize that some families whose students were reassigned to another school may not want to return to their geographically determined school. However, those reassignments were made based on the pending lava flow. Now that the lava has been determined no longer a threat to KKP, students must go back to the school they came from for their education.” Chad Farias, KKP complex area superintendent
Families may apply for Geographic Exceptions (GE) (LINK: more info on GE from Hawaii DOE) and follow the guidelines under Chapter 13 should they decide to make a change, school officials say.
The Department is currently evaluating staffing needs and determining the appropriate processes to return the maximum number of employees to their pre-lava flow schools. There are a lot of details to be worked out and we appreciate the patience and understanding of our staff during this process.” Barbara Krieg, DOE assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Resources.
According to the Hawaii DOE, decisions affecting employees will be made in consultation with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers union. Information will be distributed to employees once details are finalized.