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Fox News – Hawaii schools re-open after devastating wildfires, but parents fear they’re not yet safe (TPD2311054)

Fox News

Hawaii schools re-open after devastating wildfires, but parents fear they’re not yet safe

By Nikolas Lanum

Published November 01, 2023 Fox News

 

Public schools across Lahaina in Maui County, Hawaii, have reopened following the deadly August wildfires, but parents are concerned the buildings could expose their children to toxic waste.

 

A day before the schools’ reopening on October 15, Hawaii public health officials warned that ash from the mountain Kula, located just 25 miles east of Lahaina, contained arsenic levels 140 times higher than the federal safety limit.

 

According to Vox, parents were shocked when the superintendent of the Hawaii public school system, Keith Hayashi, said that students would be expected to return to class despite the environmental dangers.

“You can’t experience something like that and just expect everything to return to normal in a few months,” Maui County Council member Tamara Paltin told the news outlet.

 

LOCALS IN HAWAII RETURN TO SITES OF HOMES WRECKED BY AUGUST’S LAHAINA WILDFIRE

Aerial images east of town where homes and businesses lay in ruins after last week’s devastating wildfire swept through town. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

 

Fears were further exacerbated when the state health department revealed that Lahaina’s soil, which has gone untested since the fires, is likely contaminated with the toxins found in Kula.

 

Hayashi, working with the state’s Department of Health, state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said they had determined it was safe for students to return to school campuses.

 

Lahaina families learned of the school reopening plans on October 4 and two weeks later, the government’s safety assessment remained unchanged.

 

“I’m not sending my keiki [child] back there,” Paltin, who has two children, said.

 

HAWAII MISSING PERSONS LIST: FBI, MAUI RELEASE NAMES OF 388 PEOPLE NOT FOUND AFTER DEADLY WILDFIRE

A general view shows the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

 

After the Kula report was released on October 15, Hayashi and the Director of the Hawaii Department of Health, Dr. Kenneth Fink, held a virtual press conference claiming that the reopening of schools was “critical to the well-being” of the Lahaina community.

 

However, Fink said the ash found in the air could indicate “a potential risk of exposure to the toxic materials.”

 

The King Kamehameha III Elementary School was one campus destroyed in the wildfires. The Department of Education has been setting up tents at the nearby Princess Nahienaena Elementary School to expand classroom access.

 

Parents said they felt the measure was rushed and suggested that children were expected to return to class before the EPA had finished removing hazardous waste.

 

HAWAII GOV AGREES CLIMATE CHANGE ‘AMPLIFIED THE COST OF HUMAN ERROR’ ON MAUI FIRES

An aerial image shows a red roofed house that survived the fires surrounded by destroyed homes and buildings burned to the ground in the historic Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui in Lahaina, Hawaii on August 10, 2023. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

 

The EPA’s “Phase 1” cleanup, according to Vox, was just 75% complete on October 18 when the first wave of Lahaina students were told to return to classrooms.

 

“What’s going to happen on a day like today, when the Kona winds are coming in from the ocean, and everything gets caught in that wind?” Lahaina parent Kalikolehua Storer said.

 

To quell concerns, the EPA said it plans to cover all of Lahaina in a nontoxic adhesive known as Soiltac, which prevents soil movement.

 

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State officials have also installed air quality monitors that detect levels of fine particulate matter, which can indicate large toxins. Despite these measures, hundreds of Lahaina families have transferred their kids to nearby charter or private schools.

“Where will these officials be if our kids get sick five, 10, 15 years down the line? I do not want to be part of a class action lawsuit,” Paltin said. “I do not want to see a television commercial saying something like ‘if your kids went to Lahaina public schools between 2023 and 2025, call this law office.’ I want my kids to be safe.”

 

For more Culture, Media, Education, Opinion, and channel coverage, visit foxnews.com/media.

 

Nikolas Lanum is an associate editor for Fox News Digital.

 

URL

https://www.foxnews.com/media/hawaii-schools-re-open-after-devastating-wildfires-parents-fear-theyre-not-yet-safe

 

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