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North Shore students have unique commute

PRINCEVILLE — A week after the Hanalei landslide occurred, one parent got his boat and transported his son and classmates from Black Pot Beach to the former Princeville Hotel’s beach access, a 10-minute Zodiac boat ride, followed by a van ride courtesy of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, to get to school in Kilauea.

And he is still doing it.

Sam DeBonet, an eighth-grader at Homeschool Now, enjoys the boat trips with his classmates.

“The best part of getting to school is checking the surf at the bay. Same is true when coming home,” DeBonet said.

Jamie DeBonet, Sam’s dad and the driver of the boat, said the boat ride is a result of the students’ schedules not aligning with the state’s scheduled convoy access in and out of Hanalei on Kuhio Highway due to the March floods and landslides.

HSN starts at 9 a.m., and Jamie DeBonet wanted to make it easier on the students and parents during the five school days each week by meeting at Black Pot Beach Park in Hanalei at 8 a.m. and driving the students on his 15-foot-long Zodiac to Princeville. And again after school, from Princeville to Black Pot Beach Park.

“I think the important thing (is) to keep the kids’ daily schedule in their life easy,” DeBonet said. “Because kids have enough challenges in the world. Right (now), growing up, that they don’t need to have another challenging experience each day. It makes it fun. I get to just listen most of the time.”

When a student is having a bad day, DeBonet lets that kid drive his boat for a minute. And no matter what, that puts a smile on his or her face.

“Sometimes, if we have time, we’ll take a quick spin around the bay, strap (on) the adventure,” DeBonet said.

Robin DeBonet, his wife, said she thinks it is pretty cool that her husband takes time out of his work day to shuttle kids across the river.

“I know he loves doing it,” Robin DeBonet said. “Also, a huge shout out to the Rotary Club and Rick Gerding for taking them to school in a van and then getting them after school back to the boat. It’s all volunteer, and I’m so grateful for them. The Rotary is a great organization.”

Gerding, the driver of the free van that meets up in Princeville, said it is what the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay does: volunteer at different projects. And this is his way of serving his community.

“They needed it,” Gerding said. “I happen to live real close to where they go. So it’s a one-way trip for me. I can go park by my house, screw around, then pick them up after school. The drag lately is the (Kalihiwai) bridge work. The other day, it took an hour and a half to get home.”

Christina Zimmerman, a teacher at Homeschool Now, appreciates the efforts of all her students’ parents.

“We are so grateful for the Rotary Club community as well as parents who have made this happen,” Zimmerman said. “Without generous parents boating the students across twice per day and Rotary picking them up, they would not be able to attend school. I’ve said this a million times over the years, but we have the best community in the world, and we couldn’t be luckier to live here. It truly takes a village, and we have the best one.”


Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or
Source: The Garden Island

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