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Hawaii News

Lava claims charter school and Ahalanui Beach Park

Nina Wu
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The Kilauea eruption that has wiped out a popular recreational area and charter school is showing no signs of slowing in its 10th week as it continues to advance down the shoreline toward Pohoiki boat ramp.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists said fissure 8 continues to pump lava into the perched channel heading northeast from the vent toward Kapoho.

Following an overflight Thursday morning, HVO confirmed that Ahalanui County Beach Park, popularly known as Warm Ponds, and Kua o ka La Public Charter School have been covered by lava. There was a channelized flow that went west of Kapoho Crater, advanced toward the ocean, destroying the school in its path and leaving a new ocean entry plume near Ahalanui.

USGS images of Kilauea’s fissures and flows in July

Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder said both were covered by lava at about midnight. At least 700 homes have been destroyed, with three destroyed recently at Leilani Estates.

“It’s a devastating moment,” said Susie Osborne, co-founder and head of school, as she reminisced about the many milestones on campus.

The school, which opened in 2002, served students from preschool to 12th grade at the location for 16 years. The campus at Pualaa, the Hawaiian place name for the area, was also home to ancient Hawaiian fishponds, archaeological features and a lowland range forest.

“My desire is that they (the students) understand how special that time was for them,” said Osborne, “and they strive to reach their highest potential from the great aloha and the foundation that they received at Pualaa.”

The school remains open for more than 200 students, she said, and classes will begin Aug. 7 in Hilo.

The middle and high school classes will be held at the Boys & Girls Club, while another facility is in the works for the elementary school students. A GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $15,000 has been launched to help with relocation efforts.

A collapse-explosive event with energy equal to a 5.3-magnitude earthquake occurred at Halemaumau Crater at 2:42 p.m. Thursday, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense. There was no tsunami threat to the island of Hawaii.

No other fissures were active as of Thursday afternoon.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman (D, Puna) said he would seek funds through several avenues to help the charter school.

In its years of operation in Puna, the school served hundreds of students, including second- generation students from the community.

“They’re a school with an unbelievable amount of heart and soul,” he said, “and helped kids who fell through the cracks at the regular school. They have a wonderful program with Hawaiian values instilled, and the kids graduate really strong.”

The loss of the school resulted in an outpouring of support and the sharing of memories on Facebook.

Smiley Burrows shared a post about how his five boys attended the school; two are still enrolled.

“I am beyond grateful to Susie Leigh Osborne and all of the teachers that influenced my children,” he wrote. “I loved having the kids visit Green Mountain. We planted ulu trees with them, gathered kukui, had makahiki games in the main field.”

Kilauea East Rift Zone lava flows and fissures, July 12 by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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