Wednesday, January 17, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Barbers Point school's isolation a worry

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

KALAELOA — As Barbers Point Elementary School becomes more isolated on the former naval air station it calls home, security is becoming a more immediate concern for the state Department of Education.

Principal Claudia Nakachi said although there have been no security problems at the school, the DOE plans to spend $38,000 to put up 6-foot-tall security fencing around the campus.

"The request was put in when we first heard about the closure," Nakachi said. "Finally, the project was approved."

But one neighborhood board member believes even more security measures may be needed for students’ safety.

"Maybe I’m being overprotective, but our children are our greatest asset and we have to be careful," said Maeda Timson, chairwoman of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board. "The school is isolated now. They are miles away from other populated areas."

Littering and vandalism are the most common complaints at the renamed Kalaeloa since the Navy shut down its air operations at Barbers Point in July 1999, but there have also been reports of abandoned cars, property thefts and burglaries.

The Navy has retained some land, but is turning over 2,150 acres to a mix of federal, state and city agencies for use as parks, educational facilities and housing for the homeless.

Many of the buildings are abandoned, and some roads are in a state of disrepair. Former Navy housing, which used to surrounded the elementary school, is being torn down and when work is completed, will leave the campus sitting alone on Boxer Road.

No security concerns at school

Nakachi said the administration has become more security conscious since the base closure, but most incidents are reported far from the school, in public beach areas.

"We have not had a security concern at the school," she said. "We do see the military security patrols coming by."

Royal Guard, a private security company, now staffs the old guard shack at the entrance to the base at night, and one-person Navy patrols roam throughout Kalaeloa 24 hours a day.

In 2000, there were 53 cases of property theft and eight burglaries, including safes taken from the golf course and the damaging of an automated teller machine at the military’s Touch N Go mini-mart.

While other parts of the nearby "second city" of Kapolei continue to grow, Barbers Point Elementary has been drained of students since naval families moved out. The school, which has a capacity for 790 students, now has an enrollment of only 270.

With crowding at both Mauka Lani and Makakilo elementary schools, the DOE is looking into a redistricting plan that would take students from those schools and bus them to Barbers Point.

Leeward District Superintendent Hazel Sumile said a redistricting plan will be decided on by the end of the month and will take effect next fall.

DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen said the chain-link fence project is just about to go out to bid. "Knowing the area is in transition and there is a lot of activity going on, a fence will help to prevent vandalism and loitering," Knudsen said. "It is meant to provide an extra layer of security and safety to the students."

Timson said she believes more is needed.

"I advised them to get their own security guards," Timson said.

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