Lahainaluna High School boarders longing to get back to campus

Many students are excited to reunite with their peers and mentors
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 6:42 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 9:12 PM HST
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Maui mother of two, Kianna Kekona, is cherishing moments with her children a little more nowadays.

Just 35 days ago, she couldn’t get ahold of her oldest son, Nainoa, who was stuck in Lahaina as the largest fire in modern history tore through the town.

Nainoa is one of 42 students in Lahainaluna High School’s Boarding Department this year. He and the other boarders were on campus, moved in, and ready to start their school year.

“I was walking on eggshells all day,” Kianna said.

Nainoa Kaai-Kekona, 15, is a second-year boarder. When the fire broke out on Aug. 8, he and the other boarders were sheltering in place on campus at the top of Lahainaluna Road, overlooking the town.

“We could see everything,” he said. “All you hear was just cars exploding … they told all of us to stay inside, and so that’s what we did. We had breakfast in there, lunch, dinner, and we just stayed inside and kept each other company.”

As the fire spread, authorities said a mile a minute, Nainoa and the other boarders evacuated campus. Later that evening, they had to evacuate the evacuation shelter at Lahaina Civic Center because the fire got dangerously close. They fled from West Maui completely.

“All we could see was just dark smoke, guys in the water, cars exploding,” said Nainoa.

“When he got to Maui High, he called and he asked, ‘Mom, are you coming to pick me up? I’m at Maui High.’ That was like the biggest relief. The biggest,” said Kianna. “I jumped in my car, and I drove straight to him, gave him the biggest hug, and told him that I loved him.”

The Lahainaluna campus was untouched by fire. However, authorities are conducting quality tests on the air, water, and soil before letting the students return. At a Department of Education meeting in Kahana on Aug. 30, school officials said the goal is to get students and boarders back on campus after Fall Break on October 16th.

Nainoa and other Lahainaluna High students will start school at Kulanihakoi High in Kihei in South Maui on Thursday, September 14th.

He said he is excited to see his friends and fellow boarders again — but can’t wait to be back on campus doing life together as one family again.