The extent of the disaster on the Hawaiian island of Maui had yet to be fully revealed on Friday, and a state department of education spokesperson indicated it may be a while before officials can assess the damage to the county’s schools and school buses.
Derek Inoshita, a communications specialist with the Hawaii Department of Education, told School Transportation News on Thursday that all but two schools remained closed heading into the weekend. Damage assessments will be conducted after emergency management agencies reopen impacted areas, Inoshita added.
The three Maui wildfires continue at this report, though the West Maui fire that decimated the town of Lahaina was 80 percent contained.
School bus contractor Ground Transport, Inc. reported on Friday that eight school buses parked at a trailer office in Lahaina were sparred during the West Maui fire, though FEMA must still clear the area to allow access to inspectors. The company’s newest transportation facility located in the unincorporated central Maui town of Pu’uene near Kahului airport, was also unscathed.
“This is a miracle since the whole area around our [Lahaina] yard is burned,” added Louis Gomes, president of Ground Transport. “The county is allowing our manager and maintenance supervisor to visit our yard this afternoon. They will be updating me on the actual damage to our buses.”
Meanwhile, a convoy of 25 school buses was captured on Facebook Live Thursday as they drove to West Maui to assist with evacuations. In all, the buses transported 1,200 hotel guests from Kaanapali located north of Lahaina to Kahului Airport. Nearly 15,000 tourists and others departed Maui on flights as of Thursday evening.
About 40,000 students attend pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade schools in Maui, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Most school bus service across all the Hawaiian Islands is for students with Individualized Education Programs that require transportation as a related service under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The high school and elementary school that remained open are in Hana on Maui’s eastern shore, Inoshita added.
At this report, 67 people were confirmed dead but the number was expected to rise in the coming days, making one of the worst disasters in state history. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green declared a state of emergency and President Joe Biden approved federal disaster funds on Thursday.
Meanwhile, three other fires are burning on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article obfuscated the facts of the West Maui fire and its impact on Ground Transport, Inc. operations
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