It’s back to school in Kahului after fire

Kahului Elementary School students will be returning to school Monday with needed repairs completed and temporary arrangements made to accommodate the 137 students displaced by a suspicious fire that damaged six classrooms Nov. 24.

The school originally was supposed to reopen on Thursday following the fire that damaged the four-classroom F building and two portable classrooms, but state Department of Education officials pushed the reopening to Monday, partially because of waterline damage.

DOE spokesman Derek Inoshita said Friday that fire damaged waterlines running above ground. The lines had to be capped to avoid leaks before the full system could be restored.

The work has been completed, and the system restored, he said.

In the week since the fire, teachers have worked to accommodate the affected 2nd-, 3rd- and 4th-grade students in other classrooms, Inoshita said.

State Rep. Justin Woodson, who represents Kahului and has children attending the school, said Wednesday that a trailer classroom is coming from Makawao Elementary School. Approvals also have been secured for four modulars, a structure between a permanent classroom and a portable. They are cheaper and can be set up more quickly, he said.

Woodson could not say when those facilities would be in place.

Inoshita said that plans for portable classrooms still are in development and a timetable is pending. The portables will need to be transported and situated before power and utilities are installed.

“The department’s facility branch is working on repairing and/or replacing damaged fixtures and buildings,” Inoshita said. “Any new construction will take time and allocated funds, which the department will handle once a full assessment is made.”

Police have opened an arson investigation in the fire, which caused an estimated $1.2 million damage to the structures and contents. Woodson, who toured the damaged classroom wing, said he is not an engineer, but he is assuming that the whole wing will need to be rebuilt.

Maui Crime Stoppers is asking anyone who may know something about the case to contact Detective Christopher Schmitt at 244-6454 or the Maui Police Department at 244-6400. To remain anonymous, call Maui Crime Stoppers at 242-6966. The case number is 17-049626.

Maui Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of people responsible for felony crimes, the recovery of stolen property or seizure of illegal drugs in felony cases or the capture of felony fugitives.

Inoshita said that “the community rallied around the school quickly following the fire.” A GoFundMe account was established by parents to fund student and classroom supplies.

School Kine Cookies has launched a charitable giving campaign for the school. The company is encouraging community partners who completed fundraising drives this fall to consider donating a portion of their proceeds to Kahului School. In turn, School Kine Cookies will match some of the donations.

Principal Keoni Wilhelm and the department “are grateful for the community’s support,” said Inoshita.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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