Wai'anae High endures outage
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Leeward O'ahu Writer
Following two days without electricity at Wai'anae High School on Monday and Tuesday, some power was restored to the school yesterday. But the school's decision to operate as usual until the problem is solved has left some parents upset because of classrooms that were hot and lunches that weren't.
While school officials have been reluctant to discuss details of what caused the problem and when it could be fixed, vice principal Scott Moore said yesterday that progress is being made to correct the difficulties and that about 70 percent of the school now has power.
Moore said that keeping the school open all day without electricity on Monday and Tuesday might have been "a hassle and an inconvenience, but it did not constitute a safety problem.
"We're still able to function. Most of the classrooms have a lot of window space, so although it was a little bit dim, we were still able to hold classes."
School officials did not say when electricity might be fully restored.
Much of the air conditioning was out Monday and Tuesday. In classrooms, which do not have air conditioning, fans were not operating.
"A lot of people were upset because they wanted to know why school wasn't closed, because we didn't have electricity," said Neddie Waiamau-Nunuha, an alternate program teacher at the school and member of the Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board.
"When you open up the rooms you can see by the sunlight. But you cannot use equipment, or things like telephones, because the electricity was all off. And talk about hot!"
One upset parent is Charles Herrmann, whose daughter, U'ilani, 17, is one of 1,900 students who attend the school.
"You've got two days without electricity. Yesterday there was no breeze and the humidity inside that school was unbearable," said Herrmann. "The kids were 'swimming.' To leave them in there with no electricity when it's raining, that's no intelligence."
Since the kitchen is unable to function as usual, Waiamau-Nunuha said, the students and teachers have been eating sandwiches for lunch.
"Today we had ham sandwiches," she said. "Yesterday it was, I think, pastrami, and the day before it was tuna. And we have vegetables and we have fruits on our plates."
According to Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Fred Kobashikawa, the troubles, which apparently began Saturday, "are within the facility" meaning they are an internal problem that the school system, not HECO, is obligated to fix.
Kobashikawa said it was his understanding that the school is operating on a standby generator. He said HECO is ready to assist the school by shutting down the 12,000-volt lines leading to the school if necessary.
"Sometimes that may be required," he said. "If there's a problem in their main circuit breaker, you would want to safely work on it by de-energizing upstream. And, if they ask us to, we are prepared to do that as a part of our service (at no cost)."
Like others, Waiamau-Nunuha wasn't sure what caused the problem.
"They said something about a transformer (being) out and they have to wait for a transformer," Waiamau-Nunuha said.
"On Monday we had no lights at all, no nothing but we had school. Yesterday (Tuesday), some of the lights came on, and some of the lights came on today (Wednesday)."
Herrmann said he and many other parents think the school should operate on half-days until the problem is fixed.
"I don't think closing the school down would accomplish anything, but a good half-day session and then send the kids home so they can get a good lunch," said Herrmann.
Reach Will Hoover at email@example.com or 525-8038.