This is the Place: USACE Works Christmas Day on Temporary School for the Children of Maui

While there may not be any place like home for the holidays, sometimes there are other places to be.

When much of the island of Maui and the world were opening brightly wrapped presents and sitting down to holiday dinner with Ohana (or Hawaiian for family) and friends, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continued its Federal Emergency Management Agency mission of building the temporary elementary school in Lahaina after a devastating fire raged through the town in August.

“If you have to work Christmas Day, then this is the place to be doing it,” said Alton Meyer, alternate administrative contracting officer for the temporary elementary school site. “Being able to be a part of the construction of this school is my way of contributing – just a little – to the community’s recovery.”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors place a module on the Federal Emergency Management Agency assigned temporary elementary school in Lahaina on Maui. USACE PHOTO BY CAROL E. VERNON

The contract and safety teams were on site Christmas Day while the contractor continued to set more modules to ensure the elementary school opens on time while everyone stays safe.

“I hope they get a permanent school in the near future,” Meyer said. “Generations of children passed through the school doors that were lost in the fire. That school reflected the community’s culture and heritage. This temporary school can never replace that, but this place will give the children a good place to learn while the permanent school is being built.”

As of Dec. 25, contractors have placed the first two rows consisting of 17 classrooms and two restrooms.

“These kids lost their homes, but they also lost the place where they could come together and be with their friends,” said Eddie Demko, the field safety officer originally from Mobile District. “This temporary school is going to give that back to them. Working on Christmas Day and placing those units meant we could stay on track with that mission.”

Kara Vick, a mission manager for the critical public facilities during the Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Mission, oversees the placement of a module for the Federal Emergency Management Agency assigned temporary elementary school in Lahaina on Maui. USACE PHOTO BY CAROL E. VERNON

The temporary school site is down the hill from the Kapalua Airport. When complete, the campus will house 20 small and 10 large classrooms, a cafeteria, three restrooms, and other buildings.

“Working as a mission manager for the temporary West Maui school was a Christmas present to myself and the children of Lahaina,” said Kara Vick from Galveston District. “I am humbled and grateful for this experience. Even though this school is temporary, it will give the children some sort of normalcy until their permanent school is built and fits their Lahaina culture. It is very fitting that I worked on Christmas day to make that happen; after all, Santa Clause is considered the patron saint of children.”