Tuesday, May 10, 2005


A burned American flag was laid out on a railing yesterday during the cleanup at Kalaheo Elementary School.

Decades of school
records lost

Community spirit rises from anger
and ashes at Kalaheo Elementary


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

» Fire destroyed the administration building at Kalaheo Elementary School on Kauai early Saturday. A Page A3 story in yesterday's early edition incorrectly said the fire was at Kalaheo High School.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

Teacher Linda Licke sat quietly at a library table in Kalaheo High School, where she has taught for 30 years. She lost everything in Saturday's fire -- not only possessions, but study aids, curriculums, files.

"I feel like half my life is gone," she said yesterday, noting she will recover because of other teachers' support.

Joel Kawate, a first-year Kalaheo teacher who also lost everything, said his students will overcome the adversity and anger. "We're supposed to show them how to react and be a rock for them to lean on," he said.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire, which destroyed school offices and six classrooms in the wood structure that has existed since at least 1924, when the school moved from Lawai. Volunteers spent the weekend and yesterday trying to get the school in shape so the 495 students could attend class today.

A Head Start class located in a portable classroom is shifting to free space offered by Kauai Missionary Church. Licke is taking over the library and making it a classroom.

According to Stephanie Rogers, president of the Kalaheo Parent Teacher Student Association, the loss included 15 years of principal records and 25 years of secretarial records.

Volunteers put up temporary buildings in preparation for the reopening of the school, scheduled for today.

Despite anger, confusion and fear, Principal Eric Burkman is confident he can pull the school through the tragedy, and for one reason: He's not alone. The community is behind him. "Everyone's response was immediate," he said. "That alone keeps my spirits up."

"We have to try and make things as normal as possible as soon as possible," said Burkman. "A piece of their (the students') school is no longer here."

Companies have dropped everything to help. Kauai Electronics restored phone service within hours of the fire. Vidinha Septic Systems brought heavy equipment and cleaned most of the yard over the weekend. Scores of volunteers clutching rakes and shovels sifted the area now bordered by orange fencing.

Vaughn Dela Cruz, part of a four-man crew from Rainbow Paint, painted. He admitted the company sidelined other jobs and made the school a priority. "We'll probably be here all week," he said.

Kauai Island Utility Co. and Poipu Rotary are purchasing supplies lost in the fire for students and teachers. Hyatt Regency Kauai released a five-man crew for cleanup and landscaping. Kauai Missionary Church joined Kauai Christian Fellowship and fed everyone lunch.

Many volunteers were parents like Claire Roberts, who said she came because the school has been so good to her fifth-grader. But others had no ties to the school.

Glendy Gore has spent all morning working with a shovel. "I had to help. I know how heart-wrenching this is for the kids," Gore said.

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