UPDATE 8/22 12:05 p.m:
Hawaii public schools and Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) offices statewide will be closed Thursday and Friday as Hurricane Lane approaches the islands as a powerful Category 4 storm.
“The safety of our students and staff remains our top priority as we prepare to weather this storm,” said Deputy Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami. “The statewide closures of our campuses and offices will give our school communities time to prepare as the storm is anticipated to make landfall on Oahu Thursday evening, and Kauai on Friday. This will allow the counties to stand up emergency shelters for the public statewide.”
To allow school communities and families time to prepare for the storm’s impacts, school and HIDOE office closures are already in place for Hawaii Island and Maui County.
Schools on Oahu and Kauai have been added for the remainder of the week as emergency officials warn of dangerous storm conditions for all islands, including heavy rain, flash flooding, high surf and strong winds. The public can follow the progress of the storm on the Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s website here: http://www.prh.noaa.gov/cphc
The school day will proceed as normal for Oahu and Kauai today. Only essential personnel and disaster responders are to report to work Thursday and Friday.
HIDOE schools and offices will reopen on Monday, Aug. 27, unless otherwise noted.
The Department is working closely with county emergency management agencies and disaster relief organizations on the use of designated school campuses as evacuation shelters during the storm.
Maui County is opening shelters Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 1 p.m. for special needs persons and 2 p.m. for the general public. Honolulu County will open shelters at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 23.
The cancellation of all HIDOE after-school activities and programs, including interscholastic athletic events and After-School Plus (A+) Programs statewide, remains in effect through the weekend.
Also canceled is the Hawaii State Board of Education meeting that was scheduled for Friday, August 24. A new date will be a set and a new meeting notice will be sent out.
Teachers, parents, students and staff can go to the Hawaii public schools website to read storm-related information and get the latest updated lists of any schools that may be closed. The website features a front-page story as well as a highlighted yellow crawl across the top with hurricane bulletins.
Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson told Hawaii News Now the DOE decides whether to close schools in consultation with state and county emergency management officials.
"We try to coordinate with the counties. So if it looks like they're going to close things, in concert with them., we will make the decision," Carlson said. "We obviously have a different set of perspectives. If they're going to open a school for a shelter, then obviously we need to have that school closed."
Many public schools in Hawaii serve as emergency shelters, and Carlson said, "We recently readdressed that, took a look back at all the schools, so we have a list of all the schools that are potential shelters, down to the classrooms and rooms that they would be using for shelter," and that's done before hurricane season starts.
"That's where structural engineers go out and say, 'Hey, these are the facilities that would be safest to use as shelters.' So it's all pre-corrdinated and from there, as the hurricane approaches, they choose off of that list which schools and which classrooms they want to use for shelters," Carlson added.
Also effective Wednesday, all after-school activities and programs including interscholastic athletic events and After-School Plus (A+) Programs are canceled statewide for the remainder of the week. This will allow partner emergency agencies and organizations to stage evacuation shelters at designated schools. All school-related interisland travel this week is canceled as well. Click here to view Tuesday's letter to parents.
Parents are encouraged to work with their child’s school to ensure they have the most up-to-date contact information for their household.
Updates on school closures will be posted on HIDOE’s website and on social media — Twitter and Facebook.
If schools are damaged because of the storm, Carlson, who is in charge of DOE facilities and safety, said the DOE has assessment teams ready to look at school facilities and make sure that they're safe.
As for when schools will re-open following the storm, "We're very hopeful that by Monday, we can re-open. Obviously a lot is still to be determined by the impact of the storm."
"Our priority from the DOE is to try to get the schools re-opened as soon as possible, so we'll add some normalcy back to life," Carlson said.
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