Lanai school receives bus by way of Hana

After Dollar car rental closed, athletes needed transport

Lanai High & Elementary School received its first bus in school history last week, a 5-year-old, 15-passenger vehicle donated from Hana High & Elementary School. COOP DERENNE photos

LANAI CITY — For the first time in Lanai High & Elementary School history, students have their very own bus.

The bus, donated by Hana High & Elementary School and received on Lanai last week, will be activated for the first time on Lanai tonight, when, ironically, the Dragons arrive to play the Pine Lads and Lasses in basketball.

Talk about a warm welcome.

“We’re not going to change the ‘Hana’ paint right away,” said Lanai Principal Elton Kinoshita. “We will leave it up for a little while.”

“The fact that our sister school would help us like this is amazing,” he added.

Coop DeRenne, a former coach at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Lanai resident, helped Lanai High get a much-needed bus through a donation from Hana High.

Kinoshita discussed the challenges that the small, no-stoplight town face when it comes to student athletic transportation. Throughout its history, the school had rented vehicles from Dollar Rental Car to shuttle home teams to the ferry for off-island games and to bring visiting teams to the school for athletic events. Kinoshita estimated that more than $3,000 was spent annually for student transportation, with individual buses averaging $350 per rental.

“Hana, us and Molokai, we share a lot of the same challenges,” Kinoshita said. “There is no public transportation on this island, and when a rental place that helped us went out of business, we’ve been scrambling to find transportation for our kids and when visiting schools come on the ferry.”

Dollar closed its Lanai doors last November, and some on the island were calling it a “mini-crisis” for student-athletes. That’s where small, no-stoplight towns have a home-team advantage: Community members often help one another.

Kinoshita turned to Lanai City resident Coop DeRenne, a longtime coach who has deep roots in Hawaii athletics, “to work his magic.”

DeRenne, known through his 40 years of teaching at University of Hawaii at Manoa as “Coach Coop,” made a lot of calls to his Oahu and Maui contacts. When he called Robert Joseph Jr., Maui District Schools transportation officer, Joseph recommended asking Hana because both are Maui Interscholastic League Division II schools, and he thought Hana may have additional buses due to a grant.

Hana’s Athletic Director Devon E. Carroll and Director of Transportation Wailani Nakooka found a couple of buses that were out of daily rotation for student/school transport and were used for field trips and athletic travel.

They made quick work of donating the bus to Lanai.

“This helps our entire league out, and we want to see camaraderie in our division continue,” Carroll said. “I have seen how much we work to help each other with the overall goal of helping kids in the MIL.”

The 5-year-old bus, which seats 14 to 16 people, arrived Jan. 2 on Lanai. Its estimated value is $30,000 to $35,000, according to DeRenne, and Lanai mechanics said the bus will last for a while.

Also, DeRenne’s friend, Michael Victorino Jr. (son of Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino) of Young Brothers, helped waive the shipping cost, valued at approximately $1,500. School officials said a second, similar Hana bus may be donated to Lanai in the spring.

It will be used primarily for sports, but Kinoshita said he’s sure that other school groups will have bus requests. Field trips may be a possibility in the future.

DeRenne, who has athletic contacts all over Hawaii, especially since his son, Keoni, was a hitting coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates and now the Chicago Cubs, said that the bus really came down to God, prayer and the people who stepped up to the plate.

“This is a God story that all these Maui folks stepped up,” he said. “It’s a thank you to our Lord but to them, too.”

Kinoshita and many of the Lanai community members credit DeRenee.

“Kudos to Coop,” Kinoshita said. “He’s been a tremendous addition to our community. He’s been so invested in the community. . . . And he knows a lot of people.”

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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