|Courtesy: Hawaii Department of Education|
Representative Kaniela Ing (Kihei, Wailea, Makena), who has advocated for this project since his first election in 2012, expressed his excitement:
“As I knocked on doors in my neighborhood, people have made it clear that this is South Maui’s top priority. As my o’o hit the ground, I couldn’t help but get emotional. We have achieved the number one goal that we have set out to do. The people of South Maui should be very proud of themselves.”
Ing explained that the South Maui community has been waiting for this moment since the 1990’s. “I am ecstatic to see hundreds of hours of tireless work by so many people, over so many years, finally bear fruit.” He went on to note that while celebration is in order, “our work is not complete until 1,000 students are sitting in these classrooms.”
Ing noted that the project will benefit more than just South Maui because classrooms in Maui High and Baldwin are overcrowded, and traffic into town can be cumbersome. Its value also extends beyond education.
“This is more than just a school,” Ing said. “Our community currently does not have a stadium or even a gym. Through sports and clubs, our high school will give our young people a better sense of belonging and serve as a true hub for our community at large.”
Ing credited the project’s success to community advocacy, his relationships with key lawmakers, and a tear-and-send postcard he sent out to every South Maui home in 2013.
“It was inspiring to see how many pieces of testimony we got back and were sent on to the House Finance Committee,” he added. “It was the community voice that got Kihei High School in the budget.”
House Finance Chair, Rep. Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Nuuanu, Punchbowl, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa), who controls the State budget in the House, offered her support for Rep. Kaniela Ing's efforts.
“Kihei High School is an important project for the Kihei community,” Luke said. “Kaniela was instrumental in securing funding to begin construction of this new school, and I will continue to work with him to make sure this project gets completed.”
The Governor and the DOE also expressed their intent to see the project through completion. The school is estimated to open as early as 2018, depending on how the funding, design and contracts are secured and completed.
There have been some administrative hiccups along the way, hurdles that Ing said are inevitable for a project of this size.
“The scale of this project is an enormous. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control, but all you can do is be transparent with the community, never get discouraged, and keep moving forward. The important thing is it is happening now," he said
The Legislature met the Governor’s request to fully fund the $130 million project in 2013, but unforeseen fiscal challenges and administrative changes kept the department from spending $100 million of the funds. When Governor Ige’s administration took over in 2014, the department opted for a phased approach.
$30 million will be immediately available from the Legislature for the first phases of construction, which includes ground work, constructing wells, and an access road ($400,000 has been already awarded). Construction of classrooms and administration buildings will encumber the remaining appropriation.
According to Ing, the project will cost an additional $50-$100 million depending on the final design and cost of materials. Ing said he will work to get funding underway for Phase 2 in the next legislative session. “We want to do more with less,” he said, and noted that, “the project will take due diligence and requires fiscal responsibility.”
“I’m really excited that this will be the first Net Zero high school in the entire state,” said Ing, noting that the facility will be powered by clean and renewable sources with energy to come from the sun and wind. “It sets an example for what high schools should look like in the future. This is not your grandfather’s high school.”