Saturday, July 10, 2004

Call-up hits
schools -- and kids

The schools will suffer
staffing shortages, while many
families will face separations

Deployment could include firefighters
Guard training changes

The latest round of local residents called to military duty in Iraq -- more than 2,000 citizen soldiers of the Hawaii Army National Guard -- will leave behind civilian jobs and families who have not dealt with such separations.

"Children whose parents are in the Reserves aren't used to this," said Alfie Turner, vice principal at Holomua Elementary School in Ewa Beach. "It's going to be more of a challenge for them. We have an array of supports and personnel who will be working with them."

The schools will also feel the loss as members of their staffs -- from cafeteria workers to teachers -- pick up and leave in September for training before their deployment early next year. There are no hard numbers yet on how many school staff members will be affected.

Lt. Jeffrey Hickman, public affairs officer for the Hawaii National Guard, estimated that there could be about 60 to 100 teachers among the 2,000 people being deployed. Most schools are on summer break, and the state Department of Education does not have centralized data on reservists.

"The only way we know is when they apply for leave," said Greg Knudsen, DOE spokesman.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association estimated that as many as 600 of its members are in the National Guard or Reserves, but could not say how many would be affected by this deployment. Hickman questioned that number, calling it "really high."

"It's our best estimate -- we have no way of actually knowing," said Joan Husted, executive director of the union, which represents close to 13,000 public school teachers statewide. "Whether it's 100 people or 300 people, it's positions that have to be filled, and we're short right now. When you're already chasing to fill vacancies, it has an impact."

Holomua School, the state's largest elementary school, is already back in session this week because it has to operate on a year-round, multitrack basis to accommodate 1,400 students. Principal Norman Pang said one member of his staff, a counselor, is in the Reserves, but she has not been called up. He has already heard, however, from a dozen parents who are being called to duty.

"We're on it already," he said. "We're identifying the kids, and our counselors are going to be talking to them and some have already started."

He is sending a note home to encourage other parents who are being deployed to alert the school.

There are 4,897 students in Hawaii with parents in the military Reserves, according to Jessica Gary, a research fellow at the Military Child in Deployment and Transition, Educational Opportunities Directorate in Virginia.

Vice Principal Turner said she can relate to what the students will go through because her husband, Eric, an active-duty soldier, is deployed to Afghanistan for a year.

She and other school staff members worked with a handful of students whose parents were deployed last year. The children appreciated the chance to connect with peers in the same position and to share their pride in their parents, she said.

"I let them know that even for adults it can be a stressful time," she said. "It's good for them to have someone to talk to. As an adult it can be a challenge for me. I can only imagine what it will be like for the children."

Hawaii Army National Guard


Army deployment could
include isle firefighters

About 90 workers of the Honolulu Fire Department could be called up for service in the Middle East.

With more than 1,000 employees in the Fire Department, about 90 are in the Hawaii Army National Guard or the Army Reserves and could be placed on active duty overseas starting in September.

"As far as the service level goes, the public should notice no changes," said fire Capt. Emmit Kane. "We have contingency plans that the (fire) chief could exercise to ensure adequate staffing."

Kane said earlier this week that no one has notified the Fire Department of orders that they might be activated.

Kane said HFD does not know specifically how many employees are in the 29th Infantry Brigade, which was placed on alert July 2.


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