HONOLULU (AP) — Some students on Hawaii's Big Island are getting a rare, close-up look at the lava that's been disrupting where they go to school.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said starting next week, affected students will go on field trips to parts of the lava flow that has reached the rural town of Pahoa.
It's a pilot program that will help officials decide whether to offer lava-viewing opportunities to the wider public, he said. Access currently is restricted because of safety concerns, and authorities have arrested several sightseers for trespassing in the area.
"Right now we have an opportunity with things having improved safety-wise," Oliveira said.
He added the students are getting the first public peek because the lava turned their "lives upside-down."
Approaching lava from Kilauea volcano has forced several Pahoa schools to close, requiring students to be rerouted to area schools and a temporary site based on grade level and which side of the flow they live on. The state Department of Education built the $9 million temporary site in a parking lot in case the lava hits Keonepoko Elementary School.
State Department of Education officials were planning to meet with civil defense officials Thursday to work out details and logistics for the field trips, agency spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said. The department also wants to explore "what are the learning opportunities that this presents," she said.
The goal is to make the field trips informative and educational, Oliveira said.
He said scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and experts from the University of Hawaii are expected to help provide students with information about topics such as the science of eruptions and the different kinds of lava flows.
The students also will go on a guided walk to where the flow crossed Apaa Street in October.
Kilauea volcano has been erupting continuously for more than 31 years, but a flow that started down a flank in late June has burned a house and crossed a rural road.
The flow front has remained stalled for several weeks, allowing the county to reopen a section of Pahoa's main road.
On Monday, the county said the front had shifted and was nearly 3 miles upslope of an intersection at the town's entrance.
Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .