School Arson Has Waipahu Heated

Steve Murray
Wednesday - June 30, 2010
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The fire that damaged Honowai Elementary School on June 14 is still causing delays as officials go through the process of making sure everything is safe for returning students.

HFD investigators ruled the fire was deliberately set and the classroom has been turned back over to the state Department of Education, which has hired a contractor to conduct environmental tests before repair work can begin.

Principal Kent Matsumura said samples were taken from the room and surrounding ground to determine whether the site contains any airborne- or ground-based toxins that could negatively affect repair workers or students. He does not know when the testing will be completed.

“Facilities Management has been in contact with our school and we are just waiting for Facilities to go ahead and start the cleanup and disposal,” Matsumura added. “At the same time we will be meeting with our risk management section to determine the inventory of what was lost and how to go about replacing furniture and equipment.”

Honowai Elementary wasn’t the only area school to be targeted by arsonists. Two days earlier, Waipahu Intermediate also was damaged by fire.

Though the damage at Honowai paled in comparison to what occurred at Waipahu Intermediate - where a fire destroyed a wooden portable classroom and caused approximately $200,000 in damages - the effect of the blaze has caused concern among neighbors.

“We have neighbors across the street who are parents and grandparents, and they were quite outraged because some of them really assist us in policing the school,” said Matsumura, adding the school is often visited by people using the adjacent park to get a drink of water from the fountains.

“One of the neighbors actually has a bright light that he shines onto the school to try to deter any activity going on.”

Classes begin Aug. 2 at Honowai. Matsumura remains hopeful repairs will be completed prior to the children’s arrival, but said classes taught in the damaged room will be moved to other locations within the school if necessary.

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