Thursday, January 15, 2004

Keolu Elementary School students Jeff Marzo, left, Jasmine Holley, and Kaila Tamala struggled with an umbrella in strong winds on their way home from school yesterday.

Weather concerns
close schools

Power failures and high winds
lead nine public schools and
a private school to shut

Oahu: Thousands lose electricity, roads to Haleiwa are blocked
Neighbor Islands: Problems include electrical failures, choppy harbor waters and blown-off roofs

Aikahi Elementary managed to hold its geography bee yesterday morning, with Vice Principal Mary Moura reading the questions in a dark cafeteria because the electricity was out.

But when the wind started tearing limbs from the trees that fringe the Kailua school's parking lot, officials decided it was time to close the school.

"It became a problem of safety for the children," said Principal Molly McCarthy.

Nine public schools on Oahu either shut down early or canceled school before it started because of high winds that swept across the island yesterday.

Two of the schools -- Castle High and Kailua Intermediate -- were to remain closed today as officials assessed the damage.

Greg Knudsen, spokesman for the Department of Education, said that the two schools had extensive wind damage. At Castle the roof blew off a building that housed student records and onto a nearby administration building, he said last night. Kailua Intermediate had roof damage and debris spread throughout the campus.

Knudsen also said that last night's power outage in Hawaii Kai would force the closure of Koko Head, Kamiloiki and Hahaione elementaries and Kaiser High today, as Hawaiian Electric crews worked to restore electricity.

At Kailua Elementary School, shingles flew off classroom buildings as Vice Principal Sheena Alaiasa urged parents to sign out students quickly.

"Trees are so close to classrooms," she said. "We don't want children being hit by branches and shingles."

Second-grader Haley McDonald seemed delighted at the prospect of heading home from the school.

"We can watch TV and play games on the computer," she said with a grin. Her smile faded momentarily when her grandmother Maude Fujinaka pointed out that wouldn't be possible because the electricity was out. Haley decided she would color instead.

All over Kailua and Enchanted Lake, signs were blown over by the high winds. The sign and caution light, above, went down in front of Keolu Elementary School in Enchanted Lake.

At nearby Kailua Intermediate, gusting winds peeled off large sheets of roofing material from classroom buildings. One 7-by-3-foot piece landed a few feet from Principal Lorraine Henderson after she had sent students home.

Some schools managed to function without electricity. At Kalaheo High School in Kailua, students knuckled down for final exams early yesterday, relying on natural light because the electricity was out.

"They've been very cooperative," said Vice Principal Allan Takeshita, noting that students did indicate they'd rather go home. Bells didn't ring on campus, but there was enough light to read and the cafeteria could serve meals because it has gas stoves, he said.

"It's been pretty much a normal day," he said.

The power was out when Principal Aloha Coleman arrived on the campus of Waialua High and Intermediate yesterday, but she decided to hold school since there was running water and the day was bright enough to illuminate the classrooms.

Students stayed in the cafeteria during recess and lunch, and teachers escorted them to class under covered walkways to keep them safe from wind-borne debris, Coleman said.

The stoves weren't working, so Coleman appealed for lunch help from Leilehua High School and Wahiawa Middle School, where the staffs rallied by making sandwiches for Waialua students.

"When things like this happen, you do what you can to help each other out," Coleman said.

Solomon Elementary, on Schofield Barracks, pitched in by helping prepare food for Hale Kula school in Wahiawa, according to Gary Griffiths, complex area superintendent.

"I'm superpleased with the level of cooperation between the schools," he said.

Other schools that closed because of weather yesterday were Kainalu Elementary, Ke Kula O Samuel M. Kamakau, Castle High, Iliahi Elementary, Waialua Elementary and Haleiwa Elementary. Private school Le Jardin Academy closed early.

At Aikahi, sixth-grader Bryson Cheung was probably glad his school stayed open at least part of the day. He won the geography bee.


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