Kihei badly needs new school:
Students in one of the isles’ fastest-growing regions are enduring lengthy commutes
KIHEI, Maui » Kihei resident Donna Abdill said she started attending community meetings to try to get a high school in South Maui about nine years ago when her son was in elementary school, but state educators on Oahu do not seem to realize the urgency.
"The main issue is the schools are overcrowded. The campuses are not adequate to host the students," she said. "The island needs it."
Despite being one of the fastest-growing regions in the state, South Maui remains without a public high school, and more than 950 students from ninth through 12th grades have had to attend other state educational institutions -- a couple of schools more than a 40-minute ride from their community.
State lawmakers from Maui introduced House Bill 91 and Senate Bill 1705 this year, which seek authorization to have a developer build an entire school, then lease it for 20 years to the state.
The developer would then turn over the school to the state.
Under an alternative method of financing schools in the bills, the state Department of Education would authorize the developer to issue certificates of participation to fund the construction of the school.
The bills have died in legislative money committees, but Senate Concurrent Resolution 37 supporting the financing of a high school in Kihei is still alive in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Developer Everett Dowling, who helped to draft the bills and resolution, said the alternative financing method would assist state educators in leveraging building money and enable them not only to build a Kihei high school, but also accelerate construction of other schools.
He said he built the entire Kamalii Elementary School in Kihei for less than $18 million several years ago, when the state Department of Education had projected its cost at $24 million, and also finished it about five months ahead of schedule.
State schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said while the department supported the idea in the bills and Senate resolution, it did not want the lease payments coming out of its operating budget.
Department officials said other communities were standing in line for construction of at least a dozen schools ahead of the high school in South Maui, including a middle school in Ewa, an elementary school in Kapolei and a multiple of elementary, middle and high schools between Pearl City and Mililani.
Maui High School Principal Randy Yamanuha said his school is going to be "busting at the seams in five years" if there is no Kihei high school.
Yamanuha said enrollment is already at 1,675 and is projected to be 1,730 next year.
For Abdill's 15-year-old son, Noah, the day starts at 6 a.m. when he wakes up to ride the school bus 10 miles from Kihei to Maui High.
Abdill, who works as a manager of an art gallery more than 20 miles away in Kaanapali, picks her son up from varsity baseball practice about 6 p.m. weekdays, then drives another 20 miles to her home in Kihei.
Abdill said she feels Maui schools seem to be in the back of the state's priority list and a state Board of Education controlled by a majority of Oahu members.
"It's a control thing. They want to decide who gets it and who doesn't -- and Oahu always gets it," she said.
Seen at http://starbulletin.com/2005/04/11/news/story4.html