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Students displaced by lava threat will return to former schools

    Students from Pahoa Elementary School on Hawaii island got a chance to inspect up close the devastation of the June 27 lava flow at the Pahoa Waste Transfer Station. Some visitors left offerings wrapped in ti leaves for Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess.

Hawaii island students who were reassigned last fall to new schools due to the threat of the lava flow in lower Puna will need to return to their former schools for the upcoming 2015-16 school year, the state Department of Education said Monday.

The DOE in October had closed Keonepoko Elementary School when the Kilauea lava flow was on a path toward Pahoa town. A temporary facility was built at Keaau High School and the DOE reassigned students and staff throughout the complex area to accommodate families.

In all, some 1,700 students and 300 employees at seven schools were affected by the changes.

About 850 Pahoa students who lived north of the lava flow were moved to the Keaau school complex, while approximately 850 students who lived south of the flow were reassigned to Pahoa High and Intermediate or Pahoa Elementary.

Keonepoko Elementary will welcome back students to its campus in Hawaiian Beaches, and all public school students in the Keaau-Kau-Pahoa complex area will start the school year in their geographically determined schools, the DOE said.

“We realize that some families whose students were reassigned to another school may not want to return to their geographically determined school,” Complex Area Superintendent Chad Farias said in a statement. “However, those reassignments were made based on the pending lava flow. Now that the lava has been determined no longer a threat … students must go back to the school they came from for their education.”

Families can apply for so-called geographic exceptions. (For information on applying for a 

geographic exception, visit

Meanwhile, the department said it is working with the teachers’ union and other employee unions to determine staffing needs in order “to return the maximum number of employees to their pre-lava flow schools.”

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