HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was back to school for students and teachers of Kua O Ka La, the charter school devastated eruptions in lower Puna.
About 50 middle and high school students arrived at the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island about 8 a.m. Wednesday.
The facility will be their campus for the entire 2018-2019 school year, despite being more than 20 miles away from the Puna campus which was inundated by lava less than a month ago.
"Very exciting day and full of gratitude," said Susie Osborne, head of Kua O Ka La.
That site was move-in ready, equipped with classrooms and a computer lab.
But Nani Mau Gardens, where about 110 elementary school students were relocated to, needed a lot of renovation work and there wasn't much time. Osborne was only able to secure the lease less than two weeks ago.
"Massive termite damage. Two full walls had to be replaced. All the windows redone. Some of the floors," said Osborne.
More than 50 volunteers from the Rotary Club of Pahoa Sunset joined teachers, staff, and parents. They all worked 10 days straight to get the classrooms up to par for the first day of school, which was originally scheduled for Monday. It was pushed back two days to give everyone more time.
The work continues in the administrative office on weekends, and Vice Principal Denim Cretton said a large pavilion that the school is currently being used to store supplies will eventually be an area for hula and Hawaiian Studies.
They are still looking for volunteers to help with that project.
Kua O Ka La, emphasizes Native Hawaiian language and culture. It was covered by the flow in July.
According to Osborne, that site once was an ancient Hawaiian fishing village with fishponds and archaeological sites.
Now that the school year has started, Osborne will begin looking for a permanent spot for the school that she built herself over two decades.
She said it was historically significant and understands she won't likely find anything comparable.