At a recent meeting with the parents of Shafter Elementary School, the principal said that when the Moanalua Complex approached her recently about changing the school boundary lines to address overcrowding. She told them no thanks, she would “tough it out.” I wish she had asked the parents for their thoughts before turning down the offer.

Shafter Elementary was on the verge of being closed down a few years ago due to a low number of students. Then, in 2011, the complex redistricted and brought about 260 Navy children living in Radford Terrace over from Aliamanu Elementary to Shafter Elementary. Now, with approximately 500 students attending Shafter Elementary, we’re bursting at the seams.

The fall of 2016 saw the students lose their library. The books had to move out to facilitate a third grade class moving in. On Oct. 31, the students lost their cafeteria: a first grade class is moving in (the school notified us of this change Oct. 28).

This is one of four portable classrooms currently in use at Shafter Elementary.

This is one of four portable classrooms parked at Shafter, but not in use while officials wait on permission to move them to a different location on school grounds.

Anita H. Hurlburt

Thus, as of this Monday, my children now will only leave their classrooms for 18 minutes of recess, although, because they will need to pick up their food from the cafeteria and bring it to their classrooms, their recess time will likely be reduced significantly. Maybe it’s a Halloween trick, for it certainly is not a treat.

I would like to see if the school conducted a food safety assessment before closing the cafeteria. I can foresee many a dropped tray and dust and dirt carried by the wind onto our kids’ food now that the kids will have to navigate the narrow exterior hallways and stairs while carrying their trays.

Many children think of school as a prison, and I am starting to agree: My children pick out their books from a small cart brought weekly to their classrooms, and now they will be stuck in their rooms almost the entire day. But, by all means, let’s “tough it out.”

In the school yard, there are four portables. While the students are losing their library and their cafeteria, the portables stand empty, like ghosts of a lost opportunity. The dilapidated structures are not connected to power or plumbing. They are not even placed in their final positions. They came used, and after standing outside in our school yard some two years now, completely closed up in the humidity, I shudder to think of what has possibly moved into them in place of our kids: mold, termites, and other pests. This school year, the PTO is raising funds to furnish the portables.

The complex staff tells me that the problem with the unused portables lies with the Army. The Army owns the land under the school, and the Army has yet to give the school permission to move the portables to the location the school wants. So the complex waits.

I asked who on the state Department of Education side is responsible for keeping the conversation going with the Army. I was told that they are just waiting. When I suggested that a conversation has two parties, not just one, the complex said that the Office of School Facilities is responsible. So we are waiting, too — for the Office of School Facilities to return our phone call.

In the school yard, there are four portables. While the students are losing their library and their cafeteria, the portables stand empty, like ghosts of a lost opportunity.

Recent news stories have brought the plight of Campbell High School students into view. Although the state has been aware of the problem of overcrowding, state Rep. Bob McDermott saw no alternative but to file a class action law suit to address the non-action on the part of the state, the Legislature and the Board of Education.

Campbell High has something our students don’t: a politician with a vested interest in improving the conditions of the school. Shafter Elementary has 95 percent military children. Thus, there may only be about 25 voters among the parents. So we are waiting — for our district senator to return our call. But I don’t really blame her. Which politician would stick his or her neck out for such little gain?

Many Shafter elementary parents see the problems with the school, but they see no point in trying to force changes. They’ll leave the island within the next few years, anyway. I understand their position, and as part of a former active duty military family, I can relate.

My husband retired from the Army last year. We’re here to stay. Unlike the majority of the Shafter Elementary parents, we are registered to vote in Hawaii. We own property here. We pay Hawaii property taxes and Hawaii income taxes. I have a second grader and a kindergartener, and my children will be attending Shafter Elementary until 2023. I have a vested interest in doing everything possible to ensure that my children receive a good education in appropriate facilities.

The other parents may not pay Hawaii taxes, but schools with a high percentage of military children receive federal Impact Aid. Thus, much of the cost to run Shafter Elementary is paid for by the federal government and is therefore not a burden Hawaii citizens must bear. There is no valid excuse to deny the Shafter Elementary children basic facilities on account of money.

At the beginning of the year, we told the principal that we wanted to take Gov. David Ige up on his “offer” to allow parents to donate window air conditioners to classrooms, provided the units comply with certain requirements. She said we are not allowed. She said our school does not get hot enough to warrant air conditioners and that heat is not a problem. I have bought my sons a watch that vibrates every hour to remind them to drink water because the heat in the classroom was giving my eldest son headaches severe enough to cause vomiting.

But I agree with the principal: heat is not a problem at Shafter Elementary — as long as you are sitting inside her air conditioned office.

I want the state to provide my children with I see as the bare minimum: classrooms, furniture, a library, a place to eat lunch and an environment of tolerable temperature. And no, I do not want to tough it out.

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