(BIVN) – Hōlualoa Elementary School staff, students, and families rallied in Kona on Thursday, after the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association raised concerns about conditions at the school a little over a week ago.
In a news release detailing Thursday’s sign waving event, organizers said “health and safety concerns at the school are serious and they’ve been impacting local children and teachers for years.”
“We are pleased to see so many other groups, like Holualoa’s Parent Teacher Organization join together in this effort,” said Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association president Osa Tui, Jr. “It shows that we all want a permanent and long lasting solution to address these health and safety issues. We hope the department keeps making progress to fix problems on the campus that currently make it difficult for the keiki to learn and thrive.”
“Our educators are the gems of our school. It’s hard to retain teachers and attract new talent when our aged facilities scare them away!” said Sarah Teehee of the Hōlualoa School PTO and a member of School Community Council. ” We have asked DOE leadership and our State Sen. Dru Kanuha and Rep. Kirstin Kahaloa to work closely with us to resolve immediate safety issues and move the Master Plan forward from paper to construction.”
This news release was shared by the event organizers:
Approximately 45 people gathered Thursday, March 2, 2023 on Queen Kaahumanu Highway in Kailua-Kona to raise their concerns to the Hawaii Department of Education and the entire community about unsafe conditions on the campus and to call for immediate action and long-term solutions. The concerns were revealed to the public in a recent news conference by the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) that provided visual evidence of persistent problems at the school, including mold, asbestos, lead paint, structural damage, broken bathrooms, termites, rats, and reported illnesses and associated absences of staff members and students.
This sign waving event was organized by the Holualoa School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), which has been urging investment in Holualoa Elementary School, by conducting thorough campus-wide assessment of all buildings, and implementing emergency remediation and a clear commitment to long-term solutions.
Since last week’s news conference, few details have been announced by the Hawaii DOE on how it plans to deal with this crisis. Despite a letter from the school principal, Glenn Gray, to families on February 26 that mentioned the arrival of dehumidifiers, as well as plans to renovate two classrooms, no concrete plan and timeline has been provided to remediate mold infestation in virtually all classrooms, rat infestation, asbestos, lead paint, or how structural concerns are going to be addressed. However, the community’s recent efforts may be beginning to yield results. On Wednesday, a professional cleaning company was on campus and began cleaning in the cafeteria.
Some parents and members of the School Community Council have been on a months-long quest to gain more transparency and accountability from the DOE for these long-standing issues. They want to know about immediate remediation including expediting procurement of assistance needed, and how soon a thorough investigation of all campus buildings will occur so that parents can make informed choices about risks to their student(s).
The SCC also has asked about funding provided by the Legislature for Holualoa School, where the funds have gone, what projects the Hawaii DOE has contracted in response to the school’s long-contemplated Master Plan and what is blocking further forward progress to this planning, warranted by the age of school facilities and the fact a public roadway passes thru campus.
Many attendees at the Thursday event expressed that the health and safety issues at Holualoa Elementary have been ongoing for years and are unacceptable, infringing upon the rights of students and teachers to a safe learning environment. Providing a safe school environment is a fundamental responsibility for schools under federal, state, and local laws. The Holualoa School PTO believes the sign waving event was an effective way to remind the state and wider community about that responsibility. Holualoa School PTO supports teachers, parents, and the wider community by advocating for improved safety standards and for future investments by making certain that the school’s needs will remain a priority for the DOE and lawmakers.
For more information or to help support Holualoa Elementary, email the Holualoa School PTO at HolualoaSchoolPTO@gmail.com
by Big Island Video News
KONA, Hawaiʻi - Parents and teachers say they are still waiting to hear specifics from the Hawaiʻi DOE on how and when it will address numerous health and safety issues at the school.