South Maui’s Kūlanihākoʻi High School to officially open in August with a temporary certificate of occupancy
July 13, 2023, 1:25 PM HST
* Updated July 14, 5:18 AM
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr. joined officials with the state Department of Education in announcing that Kūlanihākoʻi High School in Kīhei will officially open next month.
He said the opening underscores the need for pubic safety and allows this $245 million state-of-the art campus to open with a temporary certificate of occupancy, with an indemnification that was received from the state while the overpass recommendation is being pursued by the state Department of Education through the legislature.
The agreement essentially protects the county “from liabilities that may arise from any items that are not in compliance with the Land Use Commission’s requirements,” according to the DOE.
“It is indeed a great day when our students can be provided the opportunity to be in a school where their community is located,” said Mayor Bissen. “As we work together to resolve longstanding issues, the safety of our students remains our top priority.”
The state Department of Education reports the campus will open to students and staff for the upcoming 2023-24 school year that begins Aug. 1 for teachers and Aug. 7 for students.
According to the announcement, students will be arriving by vehicle only, and will not face the street crossing that the South Maui community raised concerns about. Officials say the state Department of Transportation has closed off the crosswalk, thereby eliminating the risk to any pedestrians trying to cross at the roundabout fronting the campus.
“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,” said Mayor Bissen.
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. This work included construction of administration, classroom, library and cafeteria buildings, along with physical education locker rooms, a playcourt, temporary playfield and open spaces, according to the DOE.
The DOE reports 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.
“Students and faculty are ready and eager… and are welcome into our classrooms like all other schools in Maui County that are functioning with students safely accessing their campuses—with the vast majority arriving by vehicle, including buses,” he said.
Governor Josh Green, M.D. said today’s announcement “is proof that when public servants get together and collaborate to help people, great things can happen.” In a news release he said, “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.”
A DOE news release states that the traffic roundabout on Piʻilani Highway was constructed to reduce speeds approaching the Kūlanihākoʻi Street intersection. Construction of the roundabout instead of a required grade-separated crossing set by the Land Use Commission in 2013 sparked community concern and resulted in the delayed opening.
According to the DOE, 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. In Oct. 2020, Phase II began, and the upper campus was completed in Dec. 2022 at an approximate cost of $136 million.
The DOE reports that future phases will continue construction as funding becomes available and are slated to include sport facilities and additional classroom buildings. At full capacity, the campus is designed for 1,600 students.