PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The potential threat from the Puna lava flow is prompting the state to create several contingency plans to keep students in classes for as long as possible, but the various scenarios keep changing as the leading edge shifts.
Hawaii's Department of Education is in charge of three schools in the Pahoa Complex. There are a total of 1,800 students at Pahoa High and Intermediate School, Pahoa Elementary School and Keonepoko Elementary School. At least 70% of them ride the bus to school, according to DOE officials. They want to keep the schools open to offer students a sense of normalcy, but that could change if the lava hits Highway 130.
"Among the multiple contingencies we have is that once the road gets blocked, we probably definitely would look at Keaau Complex and see how many they could handle, and then we would have to be sure we checked whether we could run buses on the Railroad Avenue," said Mary Correa, superintendent for Kau-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area.
The DOE also has to consider air quality as well as access to water and electricity. Schools are communicating with parents and students to keep them updated about potential changes.
"Are we going to continue busing or not continue busing? If that happens, are we going to stand up schools - Pahoa High - on both sides or on one side? Are we going to have all of the students on one side go to the other side?" said Correa.
Crews continue to work on alternate routes in case the main highway is cut off.
There are also three public charter schools that could be impacted. One is in Pahoa. The other two are farther from the flow, but some families and faculty from the campuses live in the affected area.
The county's next community lava update on is on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Pahoa High School's cafeteria.