DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii Modular Space delivered modular buildings yesterday to temporarily replace a UH Lab School building that was destroyed by fire.
Lab School takes delivery of temporary classrooms
The University of Hawaii Lab School began unloading portable classrooms yesterday on an empty, charred portion of the campus where a wooden building was burned down in June.
Scheduled to be ready in time for the spring semester, the four new buildings will make up for some of the space lost when an intentionally set fire destroyed four classrooms housing music and physical education programs and offices for the College of Education.
The classrooms, which were custom-built at a cost of about $850,000, arrived here from an Oregon factory on Friday and should be ready before Christmas, said Emery Wong, custom projects representative for Hawaii Modular Space. The company also was awarded a two-year contract to build up to 80 portables for the state Department of Education.
By building the classrooms on the mainland while crews cleared debris from the site, Wong said the Manoa charter school might have saved up to six months of construction time.
"On a typical schedule, you would just be starting to pound nails," he said, "but we just show up with the buildings."
The university's insurance paid for the portable classrooms as well as for the month-long removal of debris, which cost about $147,000, said university spokesman Jim Manke.
Police are still investigating the June 13 fire that engulfed the school's 20,000-square-foot building, causing about $6.5 million in damage. They believe the blaze was intentionally set at the back of the 1930s-era structure. No arrests have been made.
For the past five months, students have shared classes and teachers have rearranged schedules to make up for the burned building. A choir class has met in the school's cafeteria, while a band room has served as an English class, said Vice Principal Keoni Jeremiah.
Noise from the cleanup also forced the school to relocate science and history classes to other areas, he said. And because of a lack of storage, the school could not place orders to replace equipment or furniture ruined by the fire.
"It has been an inconvenience, but the students have done really well and so have the teachers," Jeremiah said, adding that the portables would house a weight and training room, an athletic office, as well as orchestra and drama classes.
Isaiah DeLaura, a 15-year-old Lab School student who plays viola, welcomed the trailers that were delivering the new classrooms yesterday. He said music students, who have been learning theory instead of playing their instruments, would finally have a room for practice.
"Usually, as soon as we got to class, we could start playing," he said. "It's been different."
The university has said it plans to lobby the Legislature for $49.5 million to build a new College of Education building eventually on the site of the burned building. But Jeremiah said students would be using the portables "for a few years."
Wong said when construction begins for a new, permanent building, the school can take the portables apart, give them to other schools or keep them for future need.