HONOLULU (KHON2) — The development comes as students return to Lāhaināluna for the first time since the Aug. 8 wildfire.

With approximately 500 students returning to Lāhaianāluna High School, staff and faculty spent the last week getting ready.

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Learning about the test results in Kula, Shigaki will talk about what the Department of Education said, if anything, to teachers there in Lāhainā.

“The preliminary data indicate extremely high levels of arsenic in the ash, as well as elevated levels of lead and cobalt,” said State Health Director Dr. Kenneth S. Fink. “While the presence of these substances is not unexpected, the concentration of arsenic in particular demonstrates the high toxicity of the ash and reinforces the importance of avoiding exposure to the ash.”

He went on to explain further.

“It is important to remember that people can take action to minimize their exposure to these contaminants including avoiding disruption of ash and wearing proper PPE when in impacted areas,” added Fink. “In addition, for people near the impacted areas, keeping surfaces clean of dust and ash and frequent handwashing will greatly reduce exposure.”

Since efforts to get Maui students back into the classroom, they have been able to gain access to their class schedules and meet with their teachers for homeroom. Students have also received backpacks that include school and hygiene supplies.

In the midst of balancing toxic cleanup and offering keiki some bit of stability via education, one of the teachers at that high school, Jon Shigaki, joins KHON2 to discuss what teachers and students are expecting.

Shikagi said that teachers and students have not received emails regarding the issue of toxic chemicals in their area. But, according to Shikagi, the schools have been equipped with air monitors.

“I think the plan is to have kids stay indoors, like, in the classrooms,” said Shikagi. “I think we do have for if the air quality is bad at the school.”

He also said that his classroom has been equipped with an air purifier that is meant to help with any issues concerning air quality.

Regarding his feelings on students returning to campus for the first time since the end of the 2023 school year in June, Shinkagi said that he’s feeling excited.

“I feel excited because over the past weekend, we had a big game that we won; and a lot of the kids said this was their first time coming back to school, too,” said Shinkagi. “It’s also homecoming week; so, today is actually aloha shirt day. Today, we also have a special schedule; and we’re going to check in on our period 1 class that we go to in our gym. We’ll probably have a joint welcome back for everyone.”

Bobby Watson, a former football coach at Lāhaināluna, organized a banner program with alumni classes to create banners welcoming back the students and showing their support as the community heals and tries to get back to normal.

As the new week progresses, Shinkagi said that the focus is bringing back the keiki and integrate the things done in their temporary school with what will be happening at Lāhaināluna. This is especially important as the school integrates back into the population the students who did not attend the temporary school.

And what was Mr. Shinkagi’s message to students as they embark on this emotional journey?

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“I want to say to everybody, Welcome Back,” concluded Shinkagi. “For those students that it’s their first time back, You are not left alone. We’ll get you back into our campus. For those students who are still not sure or don’t feel at ease coming back to school, don’t worry. We have something planned for you, too.”