Hugs, cheerful signs greet kids returning to fire-damaged Maui school

KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Anxious students returned to a Maui school on Monday, more than a week after a costly arson fire.

Cheerful messages and signs greeted the children as they resumed classes at Kahului Elementary School.

"He still had some nerves, but the school has been so great. My son got to meet with a counselor last week just to assure him that things are fine," said the Kahului resident.

The school held a special assembly for the roughly 135 students who have been displaced. The children have been moved to the library and other classrooms on campus. The fire, which sparked on November 24, damaged six classrooms.

Teacher Lianne Oshiro's classroom was destroyed.

"(We lost) the kids' school supplies, our computers, the desks, our own personal things like photos and artwork that the kids made for us," she said.

The fire, which authorities say was intentionally caused, caused an estimated $1.2 million in damage. No arrests have been made.

"My grandson cried and worried about the school. He was sad and angered as well. Very devastating. Very unfortunate," said Kahului resident Naomi Campbell.

Administrators will be meeting to discuss options to make up for lost instructional time and to increase security on campus.

"We are looking at providing cameras and beefing up our security system," said principal Keoni Wilhelm. "We did have security here on our campus with the Maui Police Department throughout the evenings and weekends. We'll continue to do so intermittently throughout the winter break.

An outpouring of community support is helping with the healing. Donations of school supplies can be dropped off at any Maui fire station until December 20th. A supply drive is also being held on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Maui Beach Hotel.

"It's very unfortunate that it takes something like this, but our community is so strong right now. It's amazing," said Jovina Kaeo, a parent of a 5th grader

The Hawaii State Teachers Association will be giving $200 checks to each of the 7 teachers whose classrooms are now ruined.

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