PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite stalling, officials are saying as long as Kilauea keeps erupting -- it's not a matter of if the Puna lava flow will head downslope to the ocean, but when and where. State Department of Education officials say an estimated 1,800 students and 300 employees will be impacted in one way or another when the flow crosses Highway 130.
DOE officials say their number one priority is ensuring students have access to education and faculty and staff can continue working no matter where the lava heads. There are a lot of unknowns right now, so officials are reviewing various scenarios and making contingency plans accordingly.
The first 6 modulars of what will eventually become 17 elementary school classrooms that will be set-up in the Kea'au High School parking lot have been delivered. Another 7 are expected to arrive Friday. Officials say it will accommodate up to 500 students and staff at an estimated cost of around $9 million.
"There are three main schools that would be affected once the lava does cross Highway 130 -- that's Pahoa High and Intermediate, Pahoa Elementary and Keonepoko Elementary. Those three -- that's the contingency plans that we're making," said Donalyn Dela Cruz, DOE's Director of Communications.
Right, the plan is for all students who live north of the flow once it crosses Highway 130 to be rerouted to Kea'au campuses -- either middle or high school depending on their grade level. Elementary school students would attend classes in the portables going up in the Kea'au High School parking lot.
Students who live south of the flow would continue to attend their current school, so long as air quality is not compromised. Officials say if that becomes an issues, all students will be moved to Kea'au campuses.
DOE officials say there is a lot of very important information they need to communicate with families during this time and they're asking every parent to please contact their children's schools directly and provide the office with a current address and phone number. They're also asking parents who've made the decision on whether they plan to stray in their school district or move to another, to please notify them.
More details tonight on Hawaii News Now in a live report from Puna.