KĪHEI – The new Kūlanihāko‘i High School campus in South Maui has received a key approval that clears the way for the campus to open to students and staff for the upcoming 2023-24 school year that begins Aug. 1 for teachers and Aug. 7 for students.
At a news conference at the school today Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr., announced that the county has granted a temporary certificate of occupancy certifying that the campus’s buildings are safe for use.
“Our county team together with the state agencies and the South Maui community have rallied behind our students, behind their education and their hometown pride, making diligent efforts over the past several months to meet the requirements that would bring us to this day,” Mayor Bissen said.
“As we work together to resolve long-standing issues, the safety of our students remains our top priority. Our actions today underscore the need for public safety and allows this $245 million state-of-the-art campus to open with a temporary certificate of occupancy with an indemnification that we received from the state while the overpass recommendation is being pursued by the (Department of Education) through the legislature.”
“Today’s announcement is proof that when public servants get together and collaborate to help people, great things can happen,” said Governor Josh Green, M.D. “I am grateful for the hard-working leaders in my administration, the steadfastness of lawmakers from Maui and, of course, Mayor Richard Bissen for their collective determination to do what had to be done to get students into this brand new school this school year.”
The new campus provides a state-of-the-art high school facility serving South Maui communities. The rising sophomore class will be the first student cohort to begin classes at the new campus.
“Kūlanihāko‘i High is designed to be a center of learning and innovation to meet the evolving needs of our students. We're excited that students and staff will be able to start the new school year at this facility and look forward to seeing it develop into a vital community hub for generations to come,” Superintendent Keith Hayashi said.
“We appreciate the collective support of Gov. Green, Mayor Bissen, Attorney General Anne Lopez, Department of Transportation Director Ed Sniffen, as well as our lawmakers, county partners, community leaders and contractors,” Hayashi added. “We extend a special mahalo to our Baldwin-Kekaulike-Kūlanihāko‘i-Maui Complex Area Superintendent Desiree Sides, Principal Halle Maxwell, and our Kūlanihāko‘i students, families and staff for their patience, flexibility and cooperation throughout this entire process.”
The school opened to ninth-graders in August 2022 at a temporary site at the nearby Lokelani Intermediate School campus while Phase II of construction completed the upper campus, administration, classroom, library and cafeteria buildings, along with physical education locker rooms, a playcourt, temporary playfield and open spaces. The school will add an additional freshman class each school year until grades 9 through 12 are fully implemented in School Year 2025-26, allowing the school to gradually hire a full staff complement for all grade levels.
“This school will not only be the center of education, but it will also be the center of our community,” said Principal Halle Maxwell. “It will be where people have a sense of belonging, which is so important in this state right now. We look forward to all the exciting things that will be coming — the amazing educational opportunities as well as our school partnering with our elementary schools and our middle school so that we are raising up all of the students together in this community.
Hayashi said the HIDOE remains committed to building a grade-separated pedestrian crossing across Piʻilani Highway, a prior condition required by the Land Use Commission. The school was granted the certificate of occupancy to allow the long-awaited campus to open based on its temporary pedestrian safety plan that will include shuttles for students walking to and from school until the new pedestrian overpass is constructed. Honolulu-based firm G70 has been contracted to design the pedestrian overpass and anticipates a completed design in late summer. Construction of the grade-separated crossing is estimated at three to five years pending project funding.
A formal agreement was reached between the state and Maui County that indemnifies the county “from liabilities that may arise from any items that are not in compliance with the Land Use Commission's requirements.”
A traffic roundabout on Piʻilani Highway was also constructed to reduce speeds approaching the Kūlanihākoʻi Street intersection. Motorists are asked to slow down in this corridor and drive with caution while familiarizing themselves with the roundabout traffic pattern.
Phase I of construction on the new campus began in Jan. 2016 and included the drilling of new irrigation wells and site grading at an approximate cost of $46 million. Following the completion of Phase I in Oct. 2020, Phase II began and completed the upper campus in Dec. 2022 at an approximate cost of $136 million. Future phases will continue construction as funding becomes available and include the gymnasium, track and football field, basketball courts, tennis courts, additional classroom buildings, softball field, baseball field, soccer field, and open play field. At full capacity, the campus is designed for 1,600 students.