Blaze a discouraging note for unique school
Authorities believe a fire at the University Laboratory School was intentionally set.
ALUMNI and supporters of the University Laboratory School might take at least a little comfort in the fact that whoever deliberately set fire
to a campus building could be severely punished under a new law
As authorities begin an arson investigation, the charter school faces the challenge of rebuilding under tight funding constraints. Though donations since the June 13 blaze totaled nearly $30,000 earlier this week, that falls considerably short of the $6.5 million damage estimate, which itself would not cover replacing the building. Also distressing is the $4 million worth of research work and school history that went up in flames.
Whether the Legislature can provide special funding is problematic, but since the school serves as a curriculum and teaching development "laboratory," a case can be made for specific appropriations.
Officially named Educational Laboratory School, the facility is directed by the University of Hawaii College of Education. It is a "seed bed" for instructional research and teaching programs that have received national recognition. Its 420 students represent a cross-section of the community to better form education models. The school has a strong record; 98 percent of its 2005 graduates enrolled in postsecondary education.
The conclusion that the fire had been intentional unsettled officials and alumni who might have thought their school was immune from the crimes that have hit other schools. Break-ins, thefts and arson have plagued public schools statewide, but funding for security has not been a priority. State officials might need to review the situation.
The new arson law was established primarily because of an increase in summer brush fires on Oahu's Leeward Coast, but will be applied to other incidents as well. Penalties include 15 years in prison and $50,000 fines. In addition, parents will be held liable for damage done by their children.
The law provides a tool for enforcement. What remains is nabbing the culprits.
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