Temporary campus for fire-damaged King Kamehameha III Elementary ready to welcome students


The temporary campus for King Kamehameha III Elementary School, which was damaged in the Aug. 8 wildfires, was constructed in four months and is set to open to students and staff on April 1 at the new Pulelehua development near Kapalua Airport.

HONOKŌWAI — Federal, state and local officials came together Monday to mark the opening of a temporary replacement campus for King Kamehameha III Elementary School, which was damaged beyond repair in the Aug. 8 Lahaina wildfires. 

“It is a small miracle that in just 95 days a school has been created. We need some small miracles here after the fire that we suffered,” Gov. Josh Green, M.D., said. “This is the place where most kids are going to find their normal moments, their stable moments.” 

Classroom at King Kamehameha III Elementary at PulelehuaThe new campus, located in the upcoming Pulelehua development below Kapalua Airport, will open to students on April 1. Teachers and staff began officially moving in today.

It will mark the fourth transition for the school this academic year — following closure immediately after the fires and temporarily enrolling in other educational options, transitioning to learning hubs in community spaces, and reopening for full, in-person learning last October in tent structures co-located on the Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary campus.

“This year has been full of challenges on many levels with lots of layers of emotions,” Ian Haskins, principal of King Kamehameha III Elementary, said. “Through the three previous transitions we have persevered by working together. This has been an unprecedented year and together we can create the best environment for our students, teachers, and the whole community.”

King Kamehameha III Elementary at PuelelehuaWith the West Maui mountains perched above and Lahaina town’s coastline below, the new campus has 30 air-conditioned modular classrooms in addition to an administration building, library, student support center, cafeteria and play areas. Some classrooms will be used as resource rooms for art, computer lab and special education, and for Kaiapuni Hawaiian language immersion education. About 350 students are expected to receive instruction at the new campus, which has capacity for 600 students.

“In the Department, we talk about and embrace the idea of ne‘epapa, which means to come together as one, united in purpose, and moving forward together in unison,” Superintendent Keith Hayashi added. “Being here today and dedicating this new campus for King Kamehameha III is a prime example of that. I look forward to Principal Haskins and our students and staff being able to fill this space with aloha and a love for learning for many years to come.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helped to fund the approximately $78 million school while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) handled the construction of the project and sub-contracted Pono Aina Management, an 8(a) Native Hawaiian Organization.

“We got this work done because the hands behind the tools were vested in the community and committed to delivering for their families, their neighbors, their neighborhoods and their community,” Col. Eric Swenson, recovery field office commander with USACE, said.

Swenson called the 95-day project a “Guinness World Record-like feat” which actually took 85 days because “Mother Nature took 10 of those days.”

The dedication of the campus was marked with a Hawaiian ceremony that included pū and ‘oli led by cultural practitioner Kaniala Masoe of Maui. About two dozen King Kamehameha III Elementary teachers were also in attendance and held hands in a circle following the blessing to sing a Lahaina mele.

Dedication of King Kamehameha III Elementary at PulelehuaAlso in attendance for Monday’s event were U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, Board of Education Chairperson Warren Haruki, state Rep. Justin Woodson, who represents Central Maui and is also chairperson of the House Committee on Education. California U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa whose district includes Paradise, where the Camp Fire took place in 2018, attended as a guest of Rep. Tokuda. 

The original King Kamehameha III Elementary campus along Lahaina’s Front Street was damaged beyond repair in the August wildfires but some items from the campus were able to be salvaged. A few significant artifacts retrieved from the original campus were recently relocated to the new site, including a 6,000-pound bronze bust of King Kamehameha III and a green and white cattle gate featuring the school’s nickname.King Kamehameha III Elementary Bust

The temporary site will operate for up to five years while plans for a permanent replacement school will involve engaging the community and be coordinated with broader planning for the rebuilding of Lahaina.

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