North Shore learning lessons

HAENA — Following the massive rainfall and flooding on Kauai in April, many residents experienced a high degree of uncertainty as schools, businesses, and roads were closed, leaving many stranded or displaced.

Organizations and individuals — in Hawaii and elsewhere — took notice and contributed to the relief and recovery effort through the Hawai‘i Community Foundation resulting in students being able to access classes and complete the school year.

“An issue that emerged very early on after the storm was the need to get keiki back in a safe and familiar environment so that families could focus on rebuilding their homes,” said Darcie Yukimura, HCF director of community philanthropy – Kaua‘i. “Through our work sharing information and resources, and bringing community members together, many students were back in class quickly and were able to complete the school year on time.”

About 30-40 public school elementary, middle and high school students were impacted by damaged infrastructure and the inability to get to school. The school principals from Hanalei Elementary and Kapaa High, along with teachers and students, had an idea for a satellite campus that would enable all students access to their education.

As the primary facilitator, HCF worked with the Hanalei PTSA and the Department of Education to provide access to school by creating satellite classrooms at Hanalei Colony Resort.

Together with the support of the community, satellite classrooms were able to open just three days after the reopening of Hanalei School and provided a much needed alternative for students, especially those who regularly travel more than 20 miles from the north side of Kauai to attend Kapaa High School.

“For the Kapaa students who lost electricity or internet services, whose house was completely flooded and they couldn’t do online learning or email their teachers, the satellite school was a tremendous help. They could just go and get their homework done, have something to eat, be normal,” said Daniel Hamada, principal at Kapa‘a High. “None of our high schoolers fell behind. Everyone was able to fulfill their requirements, pass their classes and move up to the next level. All of our seniors finished out the school year and graduated with their friends.”

Tahara Stein, Hanalei School principal, commented, “HCF brought everyone together to kick start the effort to create satellite classrooms with lunch service by Opakapaka Restaurant for impacted public school students as the State worked through its budgeting processes. What that meant for our students was that they were able to connect with them sooner, offer support, and celebrate with a graduation ceremony.”

The HCF staff on Kauai have continued to have open dialogue with community members and school faculty members to ensure that the most immediate needs were addressed. The Aloha School Early Learning Center was damaged to such an extent that students would not be able to return in a timely manner.

Through the Kauai Relief and Recovery Fund at HCF, the preschool was able to quickly repair damage to the school and offer reduced tuition. Exactly one month after the flood, faculty and students were able to return to school.

“We are so fortunate to have the Hawaii Community Foundation by our side. Because once we got our keiki in a secure place with familiar teachers, then everyone could start the rebuilding work,” said Ashley Guerrero, director of the Aloha School. “The school would still be in the mud if it wasn’t for all the love and support.”

“While the many generous donations made through the Kauai Relief and Recovery Fund have helped hundreds of residents and businesses return to normalcy, there is still so much more to be done,” said Micah Kane, CEO and president of HCF. “Immediately after the flooding in April, our team on Kaua‘i began meeting with county officials and community organizations to identify the most immediate needs in order to deliver the maximum impact.”

The Kauai Relief and Recovery Fund at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation was created in partnership with Pierre and Pam Omidyar and two anonymous donors to assist with recovery efforts due to the damage caused by the flooding. The fund has exceed more than $1.5 million in donations.

Donations can be made online at HawaiiCommunityFoundation.org/KauaiRelief or by mail to Hawaii Community Foundation, 827 Fort Street Mall, Honolulu, HI, 96813.

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