All Students to Return to Schools Affected by Puna Lava Flow

The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) today announced students in lower Puna who were reassigned in October 2014 due to the threat of a lava flow will be returning to their original school. 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.

Pahoa High and Intermediate

“We realize that some families whose students were reassigned to another school may not want to return to their geographically determined school,” stated Chad Farias, KKP complex area superintendent. “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.”

DOE officials added that families may apply for Geographic Exceptions (GE) and follow the guidelines under Chapter 13 should they decide to make a change. KKP 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 Department is currently evaluating staffing needs and determining the appropriate processes to return the maximum number of employees to their pre-lava flow schools,” said Barbara Krieg, the DOE’s assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Resources. “There are a lot of details to be worked out and we appreciate the patience and understanding of our staff during this process.”

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.

Keonepoko Elementary School to Reopen – Lava No Longer Immediate Threat

The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) will begin the planning process to reopen Keonepoko Elementary School in Hawaiian Beaches now that lava is no longer an immediate threat to the area. The planning will also include addressing all of the adjustments made in October 2014 that affected 1,700 students and 300 employees.


“Many families were affected by our contingency plans to safeguard access to education and we appreciate their cooperation and understanding through all of it,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We now have a ton of details to work out before making any official announcement on dates or assignments, however it is important to let families and staff know where we stand. The decision to reopen Keonepoko Elementary extends beyond just the facility. We want to be very thoughtful about our approach.”

The decisions affecting employees will be made in consultation with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers union. In upcoming weeks, principals in the Kau-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area and DOE administrators will map out a course of action. The DOE is aiming to have details solidified by May to provide families ample time to plan for School Year 2015-16.

In late October 2014, DOE closed Keonepoko Elementary in response to the rapidly advancing lava flow. It was determined then that the lava would be crossing Highway 130. DOE built a temporary facility in the Keaau High lower parking lot and adjusted classroom assignments for students and staff within the complex area.

Recently the lava flow changed in threat status from ‘warning’ to ‘watch.’ Hawaii County Civil Defense has informed the Department that based on the most current information available the lava is no longer headed toward Pahoa.

Complex Area Superintendent Chad Farias stated, “We continue to evaluate what all possible futures might be for the education of children within Puna and are thinking not just about the current situation, but how to provide quality education to all of the families in our area for years to come.”

The DOE will provide more information to its staff and the public once it is available.


2,000 Students and Employees Affected By Puna Lava Flow

Kea‘au Middle and Kea‘au High today welcomed new students from the Pahoa Complex who are transitioning schools due to the ongoing lava flow. The remainder of the students will return to classes on Nov. 10.

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On Oct. 29, the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) announced the indefinite closure of Keonepoko Elementary as the campus is in the anticipated path of the lava flow. Since then, preparations have been made for the transition of those students and others. On Oct. 30, schools closed for students at Pahoa High & Intermediate, Pahoa Elementary, Kea‘au Middle and Kea‘au High to allow for preparations and transitions.

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About 850 Pahoa students who reside north of the flow (Orchidland, Ainaloa, Hawaiian Paradise Park) are moving to the Kea‘au complex. About 850 students who reside south of the flow (Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Shores, Nanawale, Leilani, Kalapana & Pahoa) will attend Pahoa High & Intermediate or Pahoa Elementary.

The transition of the complexes includes:

  • About 200 Pahoa High students will go to Kea‘au High.
  • About 75 students from Pahoa High & Intermediate and another 75 sixth graders from Keonepoko and Pahoa elementary schools will attend Kea‘au Middle.
  • About 300 Keonepoko students will be attending “Keonepoko North,” which is the temporary school that has been set up in Kea‘au High’s lower parking lot. In addition, 150 Pahoa Elementary students will also be attending Keonepoko North.
  • An estimated 20 Keonepoko preschool students will go to Kea‘au Elementary.
  • Fifteen special needs students from Keonepoko and Pahoa elementary schools will transition to Mountain View Elementary.
  • On Monday, Nov. 10, school begins for students assigned to Keonepoko North, and students who are currently enrolled at Kea‘au High and Kea‘au Middle, Pahoa High & Intermediate, and Pahoa Elementary.

In all, 1,700 students and 300 employees are affected in this transition process.

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“Our administrators, faculty and staff have and continue to work tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition,” stated Mary Correa, complex superintendent for Ka‘u, Kea‘au, Pahoa. “During this process, furniture was moved, school schedules had to be redone and other student services were adjusted. It is important that our transitioning students feel welcomed in their new school, as well as employees who have been assigned to other schools. Individuals and community organizations have also contributed to this effort and we are very grateful for their support.”

DOE officials were in attendance at last night’s weekly community meeting at Pahoa High. Schools have also held parent meetings throughout this process.


Big Island Student Sitting Out Performance of “Tootsee Roll” Because of Inappropriate Racial and Sexual References

There always seem to be some controversy brewing somewhere on the Big Island:

…But while thousands of others are sharing high-fives, shakas and hugs, Keonepoko Elementary School sixth-grader Ja’nea Osborne will sit out the festivities on principle.

It comes down to a song the Puna school’s sixth-graders will dance to at the June 3 ho’olaulea — a hip-hop song in particular. Lines of it go something like this: “Cotton candy, sweetie go, let me see that tootsee roll, come on tootsee roll, just make that tootsee roll…

The school defends the selection, saying it contains nothing offensive

Here is the actual song, you tell me if it’s not loaded (As if the name of the group “The 69 Boyz” isn’t clue enough?”