On June 13, 2006, a devastating fire destroyed the University Elementary School (UES) building. The building had housed the University Laboratory School athletic and physical education offices; weight and athletic training rooms; and choral, drama, hula and chant, and orchestra classrooms, along with offices of some thirty College of Education faculty and staff. The fire was determined to be intentionally set, but to date no suspects have been arrested.
Alumni and friends of the Laboratory School and the college were quick to respond. Within hours of the fire donations were coming in from all sectors. Both monetary and in-kind donations were offered to the Laboratory School. Local entertainers came forward to donate their talents, time, and aloha to help raise morale and money, but most of all to show their support for the Laboratory School. In every way, the University Laboratory School felt the caring of our extended ‘ohana, our community.
In early July, the Laboratory School organized Ke Aloha No, a healing ceremony for the extended family of supporters, where all were invited to share and celebrate the memories that were made in that very special building. Everyone present was able to place lei upon the only salvageable relic from the building, the metal sign that had hung above the Diamond Head doorway.
In August, the University Laboratory School with its Booster Club organized the Holomua Benefit Fundraiser Concert that featured top Hawai‘i entertainers including Barry Flanagan and Nathen Aweau of HAPA, Na Leo Pilimihana, The Brothers Cazimero, Andy Bumatai, Maunalua, Inoa’Ole, Danny Kaleikini, The Honolulu Jazz Quartet, and Keahi Conjugation. Laboratory School alumni donated their skills to this effort: Sandy Hiraoka, ’86, created the distinctive retrospective Holomua posters and tickets; James Sereno, ’84, produced a television pubic service announcement; Lianne Nishimura Killion, ’82, distributed the PSA through Oceanic Time Warner Cable; Jonathan Sypert, ’95, as iNTREPiD performed several popular and original hip-hop and contemporary musical numbers, along with the members of his group, Communication; Darron Cambra, ’98, with students of Youth Speaks Hawaii, performed original slam poetry at the concert; Aron Dote, ’96, aired promotional PSAs through the Cox Radio Stations; and Kahi Kaonohi, ’86, of Maunalua graced the crowds with his vocal styling. In addition, local businesses Times Supermarkets, Coca- Cola Bottling Company, Pepsi, and Kraft Foods provided food and drinks.
As the fire burned, the University of Hawai‘i administration, as well as facilities management, campus security, and buildings and grounds staff came on site. A crisis response team was immediately mobilized and within days began working with the insurance company on the recovery phase. Creative scheduling and the renovation of some existing spaces in Castle Memorial Hall, the locker rooms, and University High School buildings 1 and 3 allowed the Laboratory School to open on time in Agust 2006.
In the meantime, renovations in Everly Hall and the Biomedical Sciences building made it possible to house some of the College of Education faculty and staff who were displaced. However, there were about twenty faculty and staff members still working from their homes by year’s end. AIG insurance company worked with the school every step of the way as these emergency accommodations were made.
By late October the debris from the fire was removed, and by late December four modular buildings were in place housing the Laboratory School athletic office, training room, and weight room; Laboratory School orchestra; classrooms for both Laboratory School and College of Education classes; and COE faculty offices.
And now the focus is on the future. Funding for a new College of Education building was included in the University’s biennium budget request. The Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) continued to provide support. On December 5, 2006, DBEDT brought in mainland consultants to conduct a charrette that involved a cross section of the college community. The charrette began the planning phase for a new building. DBEDT also assisted in contracting a “green” consultant to estimate the long-term cost savings of constructing an energy efficient building. In the meantime, work continued with the insurance company to determine the dollar amount they will pay toward a replacement building for UES. Settlement will occur when ground is broken for the new building and work has begun on fundraising plans to fully develop the education complex on this side of campus.
Mr. Lanning Lee was honored at the 2006 University Laboratory School Pa’ina celebration as a recipient of the Mahalo Award for his outstanding contribution to students and faculty at the Laboratory School. Although he has at various times been a student, a teacher, an administrator, and a researcher, Lanning Lee, a 1972 ULS graduate, is best known today as the “soul” of the alumni association.
Throughout the years Lanning has dedicated himself to supporting the Laboratory School by reaching out to many of its graduates. In 2001, following an all school reunion on the occasion of the fiftieth graduating class, Lee recruited graduates Leighton Wong, 1973, and Scott Yamashita, 1976, and together the three of them formed the ULS Alumni Association. In 2002, they began an annual dinner on campus for all graduates, with attendance growing from forty at the first dinner to over six hundred in 2006. They have also sponsored an annual golf tournament to directly benefit the students and their activities, and created an alumni Web page.
With the recent fire that destroyed the Elementary School building, Lanning was instrumental in getting information out to the alumni and coordinating their efforts to help the school recover from the crisis. In addition to their many contributions to the success of the Holomua benefit concert, the alumni the association raised over $100,000 for the performing arts and athletic/ physical education departments.