East Hawaii News

Students to Get First Sight of Lava at Pilot Viewing Area

December 3, 2014, 1:19 PM HST
* Updated December 3, 1:25 PM
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A pilot program is planned to be implemented for a June 27 lava flow viewing station that will begin by allowing access to students who attend Pahoa and Kea’au area schools that were impacted by the flow preparations.

Darryl Oliveira, Hawai’i County Civil Defense Administrator, said Wednesday that Civil Defense, along with other stakeholders, are working in connection with the Hawai’i State Department of Education to form a plan to have students from the affected schools in the Kea’au and Pahoa areas attend an informational excursion to the site.

“We are still working out the very fine details but our goal at this point is to create access for the students beginning next week Monday,” Oliveira said.

The Pahoa Transfer Station is the planned site of the viewing area. The venue at the transfer station provides a forum for an educational experience, including the view of hardened lava and the potential for a guided tour to see where the lava crossed Apa’a Street. Additionally, the area provides a raised structure and covered area that allows space for informational kiosks and other view points so that the students can receive a safe, informative, and beneficial education experience.

Stakeholder agencies are on board in the set-up of informational kiosks at the site. The kiosks will provide a walk-through tour that gives both educational and informational perspectives. The information planned will cover everything from the science behind the lava to agencies that responded to the needs of the community, utilizing both video and still footage of the lava crossing through Apa’a Street and entering sections of the transfer station.

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“We are all empathetic and sensitive to what the student body and community has been subjected to as the approaching lava flow has required students to change schools and practically turn their lives upside down,” Oliveira said. “There has always been an interest and a desire to at least provide the students out there with an explanation as to what has happened in their lives and what has been the cause of the disruption, as well as make it as educational and informative as possible. There is still that desire to try to make it as educational and informative for the general public as well.”

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The Department of Education is ironing out the details of bus and excursion schedules, but those efforts should be finalized Wednesday.

According to officials, the excursions should run in three time slots during the school day, two excursions in the morning and one in the afternoon. Keonepoko is scheduled to be the first school to have its educational experience, beginning Monday, with an estimated 400 to 900 students attending the excursions.

Definitive numbers are still uncertain as to how many students the pilot program will accommodate but officials say the program will run until all students from the affected schools have had the opportunity to share in the experience.

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“We are starting it out as a pilot with the students. This will allow us to collectively identify what we would need to have in place to consider opening the area for public viewing going forward,” Oliveira explained. “It’s very critical to stress that this is a pilot because once we make a commitment to open it up to the public, we would like to have the strategies in place to provide for a safe, informative, and beneficial experience and have it at a point where we can manage it to prevent some of the safety concerns. At the same time, we will have to balance the concerns and needs of the community, since it goes through a residential area.

“We are trying to do this in a very responsible way, to manage and ensure that we provide for the safety of everyone and make it an informative and educational experience while balancing it with a sensitivity for the community.”

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