The challenges of distance learning for Waimea Middle School (WMS) students were made a little easier with the arrival of 150 KeikiDesks.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced changes to how people work, vacation and even how children are educated. As a result, the home has been the classroom for the 2020-21 school year.
“It’s challenging for everyone, but we have a supportive, resourceful community,” said WMS Principal Janice English.
The KeikiDesk was a project initiated by Honolulu resident Trung Lam and his wife Lianna. According to a WMS press release, the desks are a low-cost, practical, comfortable solution for students needing to work online at home where often there isn’t a desk or quiet workspace for every member of the family. WMS parent Noe Wong saw a news story on PBS Hawai‘i highlighting the desks. After doing some research on the project, Wong reached out to English about obtaining the desks for WMS kids.
“It’s not uncommon for students to have to share study spaces or be close to siblings and others. This can be very distracting,” English. “We’ve loaned all of our students Chromebooks for distance learning, but it’s not so easy to help them have a desk of their own.”
After looking into the desks, English found they were safe and appropriately sized for middle schoolers. The principal then reached out to the school’s 6th-8th grade teachers to poll students about their interest. According to the release, many students responded with a resounding, “Yes, please!”
With money being tight, Trung reached out to several local businesses and individuals to purchase the desks at $6 each for the school and then asked a friend – Chad Buck, owner of Hawai‘i Foodservice Alliance, LLC, to ship them to Hilo and truck them to Waimea in one of his company’s weekly deliveries to community stores.
“There are many ways to help our students learn and grow – and become more resilient,” said Principal English. We are grateful to our ‘village’ – all of the generous helping hands who invented, funded, shipped, constructed and delivered 150 KeikiDesks to enable students to focus better on their virtual lessons.”
One in Waimea, WMS bus driver Aaron Leibner began assembly between runs to transport the small number of students involved in on-campus lessons, and then he started delivering the fabricated desks to students’ homes.
Trung’s project has financial support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), called INNOVATE Hawai‘i. Desks were designed at Rengo Products, Inc.