EXCLUSIVE: UH College of Ed professors say facilities cramped, lacking key equipment

UH College of Ed professors say facilities cramped, lacking key equipment
College of Education students are learning in cramped quarters after UH shuttered a building because of safety concerns.
College of Education students are learning in cramped quarters after UH shuttered a building because of safety concerns.
The backlogged repairs at the UH buildings closed recently included falling ceilings.
The backlogged repairs at the UH buildings closed recently included falling ceilings.

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two weeks ago, the University of Hawaii shuttered Building 1 at the College of Education following a Hawaii News Now investigation that found students were learning in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.

Now, COE professors are raising concerns about the space they've been moved to, which lacks crucial laboratory space and other equipment needed to teach Hawaii's soon-to-be teachers.

Building 1 had the COE's only science lab. Professors say without the lab, they're not sure how they'll be able to teach what should be hands-on courses.

Tracey Matsui, who teaches elementary science methods, said she'd usually be conducting experiments in her classroom.

But on Tuesday, the class of 22 future teachers was getting their lesson in lecture format.

"I had to change the topic of today's lesson because we don't have access to the materials," said Matsui, adding that most of her supplies are in the building that shut down.

"It's way too much to transport everything here," she said.

UH officials told Hawaii News Now that they have found more suitable classrooms on campus, but they won't be ready right away.

"There's a potential of it happening by the end of this semester," said UH spokesman Dan Meisenzhal. "There's the potential for it happening at the beginning of next semester and that's something the faculty will have to weigh in on."

Two more portable units are expected to be ready by the start of the summer semester. The university is hoping to start the procurement process for an additional two to four portable units later this year.

"This is a Band-aid and that's the truth," Meisenzhal said. "We're looking for better temporary accommodations and that's something the staff is going to have to weigh in on."

Maia Leeloi, a junior, said the sub-par facilities are unacceptable.

"We chose to be teachers. We chose to do this," she said. "We feel like we don't have the support of our school to get us there."

Art classes at the college are also being seriously affected.

Professor Christine Sorensen Irvine said since Building 1 was closed, the faculty has been in the dark.

She said the faculty is concerned that if portable units go in, what's supposed to be a temporary fix will become the university's permanent solution.

"I think the faculty are at the point of breaking. It feels like we're becoming a trailer park college over here," she said.

"No one has come from Manoa or from system to say to the faculty in the College of Education: What do you need in order to teach what you teach?"

There is a plan to tear down the building that was recently closed and the one next to it.

But when that will happen is unclear. The university has asked the state Legislature to provide the money for the demolition.

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.