Teacher Barry Wurst stands under a tent that serves as his classroom for 21 special education students at King Kamehameha III School in Lahaina. The portable that housed his classes and several other programs was condemned two months ago.

Tent covers
special ed
in Lahaina

Teachers await a trailer to
replace a termite-eaten portable

LAHAINA >> Teacher Barry Wurst sighed as he looked at the tent used as a classroom at King Kamehameha III School in Lahaina.

"I've heard all these things from the state about 'Kids come first,' and I'd like them to put their money where their mouth is," said Wurst, who teaches 21 special education students from the third through fifth grade.

School Principal Lindsay Ball said yesterday that the problem arose about two months ago when a contractor was putting a new roof on a portable classroom and found the structure was extensively damaged by termites.

The building was condemned, forcing the displacement of six activities, including the special education classroom, the Hawaiian kupuna program, preschool and speech specialists, and an occupational therapist.

The state has since provided a trailer to house some of those services, Ball said. But the school still needs rooms for other programs, including the special education class and kupuna program, he said.

Ball said he hasn't been told when the portable classroom will be removed or when it will be replaced with another.

He said the school also faces a rising enrollment in a west Maui area with only two public elementary schools. King Kamehameha III School, which serves kindergarten to fifth grade, had an enrollment of about 700 students last year when it was projected to have 627 pupils, Ball said.

Russ Saito, the state comptroller and director of the state Department of Accounting and General Services, said yesterday that the second trailer is being sent from Oahu and should be at the school in three weeks.

Saito said the state didn't have enough money to rent a second trailer and had to look for one that it already owned.

The trailer at the school is smaller and not designed as a classroom. It is being rented by the state for $800 a month, he said.

Saito said he expects the two trailers should accommodate the classes and programs displaced by the condemnation.

He said the department has just selected a consultant to determine if the state can use the existing floor of the condemned portable and build new walls and a roof.

If the department needs to replace the building, Saito said, he can't predict how long the construction could take because the school is in a historic district.

School officials noted that a prior attempt to construct a nearby building was halted after burial bones were found on the grounds.

"The likelihood of running across new bones and things like that might be quite high," he said.

Ball said school officials and teachers had to move furniture that had been in the condemned building from the cafeteria to a storage container last weekend -- work that detracts from the primary goal of preparing for classes, which started yesterday.

Wurst said after every work day, he has to move supplies including the new textbooks into a classroom but he can't carry everything into a secured building.

"Some things I have to leave. I put a tarp on at night," Wurst said.

State Department of Education


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