Gov. Neil Abercrombie and U.S. Senator Mazine Hirono led the legislative contingent at the blessing and groundbreaking ceremony, which also featured Sens. Clayton Hee and Michelle Kidani, along with Reps. Lauren Cheape and Mark Takai. Kahu Kaleo Patterson officiated the blessing.
“We’re very excited about this opportunity,” said Principal Jan Iwase. “Modernizing our facilities gives a tremendous boost to our learning environment and in turn, student achievement.”
The school was awarded a $26.6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD); the grant combined with $6.6 million from the DOE will give the school its first upgrades since it was built in 1959. The plans call for a new administration building, two-story classroom building, a student center and library-media center, additional classrooms, and for the renovation of existing classrooms.
The DOD grant is part of a $250 million effort to upgrade public schools on military installations nationwide. In 2011, the DOD reviewed 160 schools and rated them on conditions and capacity. According to that report, Hale Kula ranked ninth on the list of schools eligible to apply for funding. Priority schools were invited to apply for the DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment grant for construction, renovation, repair, or expansion of current facilities. Military dependents represent 99 percent of Hale Kula’s nearly 1,000 students.
“With the military’s shifting strategic focus on the Pacific, working together in support of schools will be even more important,” said Gov. Abercrombie. He also noted that Hawaii is one of the most supportive communities in the nation for both active duty and part-time military forces with an estimated 50,000 personnel representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines, and more than 7,000 Army and Air Force National Guard personnel and reservists.
“This federal and state investment in Hale Kula is a great partnership in bringing school facilities into the 21st century," said State Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “Improving the learning environment is not only beneficial for our students, but for the administration and faculty as well.”
“I can think of no better way to honor the American taxpayer than to invest in our future – our children,” said Brig. Gen. Pete Johnson, Deputy Commanding General-Operations, 25th Infantry Division.
The work will begin over the summer, and is expected to last until August 2016. Architects Design Partners Inc. will blend current school architecture with other elements into the project. S&M Sakamoto was selected as the general contractor.