HANALEI — “The water came up really high,” said Hanalei School Principal Tahara‘a Stein. “The Red Cross people were worried the water was going into the cafeteria. At that point there were 61 people housed there as a Red Cross shelter.”
But the water did not get in, and following the relocation of the shelter, the school, with the help of more than 70 families, readied the facility for re-opening scheduled for Monday.
“It’s all dependent on the test results,” Stein said. “We just sent the samples for mold testing to California, and should get the results by Friday. We’re hoping for the best.”
Brent Mizutani of the Department of Education said whenever there is flooding of the magnitude that drenched Hanalei, there is concern about mold. He was joined by Mariann Tabuchi and Heidi Aceret in accepting contributions from the community for specific needs for students’ families.
“We’re overwhelmed by what our families did,” Stein said. “They did such a great job cleaning up the place, the inspectors said everything was dry.”
Another school, the Aloha School Early Learning Center with an enrollment of 35 students, was buzzing with excitement from volunteers cleaning the facility.
“We’re trying to get this place open as fast as we can,” said Ashley Guerrero, the designated director. “We wish we could re-open, now because the families have nowhere to go. A lot of our families suffered damage from the flood waters, and they need a safe place for their children so they can move forward and clean their own homes.”
But the devastation was big for the preschool.
“The water was about three feet high,” Ashley said. “We live across the street at Hale Halawai and my husband Dave was going back and forth from Saturday night trying to save things. But, when we got here, furniture was floating around, and we lost a lot — 98 percent of our books are gone, at least 90 percent of the toys are gone. Our pictures were under water and we’re trying to dry them out. We lost everything.”
She said the carpets were all ripped out, and the foundation from the back room was ripped out in preparation for new flooring.
“We can’t just relocate,” Ashley said. “We are the only nationally-accredited nonprofit school in this area by the NAEYC, so everything needs to meet their standards. We’ve already set up a Go Fund Me page under Save Aloha School so people can help us. We really need help getting going so our families can move forward.”
The response to Ashley’s pleas was overwhelming, including volunteers from the U.S. Coast Guard Station Kauai.
“I got to know Richard Glynn when I was serving as an evacuation coordinator,” Ashley said. “When he and his volunteers, including John Christensen, Stephen Meier, Benjamin Gardner, and Forrest Herring showed up, he said, ‘You helped a lot of people. Now, it’s our turn to help you.’”
Across the road, the Waioli Church was quiet save for the activity going on inside, hidden from the flow of traffic on Kuhio Highway.
“Our entire property was flooded,” said a church spokesperson. “We had to take out the carpets, and we’ve had the fans going since Monday to try and dry out the inside. When the Kapaa High School football players showed up, Tuesday, we were elated because some of our green benches lining the Mission Houses were washed away from the flood. We had them go and find the benches — some which were stuck on the fence near Hanalei School, and others that had floated beyond the school.”
Bradley Chiba of Pacific Concrete Coring and Cutting came to check on Aloha School and the container they provided for disposal of the mess.
“We’ve been doing a lot of containers,” Chiba said. “The good thing is the boss dedicated a driver solely to get the containers in and out. This saves people a lot of time getting to and from the Hanalei Refuse Transfer station. Since Wednesday, we’ve being having containers filled almost every 20 minutes.”
One of the people using the temporary refuse collection site at Waioli Park shook his head.
“There’s a lot of good stuff here,” he said, retreating to fetch another load of flood-damaged material.
Keala Pavao, one of the Aloha School teachers, said they’ve been in Hanalei since 1978, and have never seen flooding this severe.
“Everything is a mess,” she said. “But, we never wash away.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.