Temporary site for Kamehameha III Elementary below Kapalua Airport is projected for completion in 95 days

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  • Hawai’i State Superintendent Keith Hayashi (left) and Gov. Josh Green (right- at podium). (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.
  • Gov. Josh Green. (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.
  • Hawai’i State Superintendent Keith Hayashi. (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.
  • West Maui Kapalua Airport. (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.
  • The temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary is down the hill and to the left of the Kapalua Airport. (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.
  • The temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary is located below and South of the Kapalua Airport. (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.

State and federal officials joined the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education in providing updates on reopening of Lahaina schools, and plans for a temporary replacement school site for King Kamehameha III Elementary, which was destroyed by the Aug. 8 wildfire.

After fall break, students and staff of King Kamehameha III Elementary will be sharing a campus at Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena Elementary School, with students returning on Oct. 18.

“This arrangement is designed to be a short-term solution using high quality tents that are equipped with power and air conditioning, a wood floor, and would create a comfortable teaching and learning environment,” said Hawaiʻi Schools Superintendent Keith Hayashi during a news conference on Tuesday morning.

In the coming months, at a date not yet specified, Kamehameha III students and staff will be able to relocate to a new temporary school site that will be built in the upcoming mixed-use development project known as Pulelehua on a parcel right down the hill from the Kapalua Airport.

HIDOE officials say FEMA will be fronting the cost of the approximately $5.36 million in initial funding for the temporary campus on 10.2 acres in Honokōwai. Col. Jesse T. Curry, recovery field office commander, US Army Corps of Engineers said the build time for the temporary site will be around 95 days.

Temporary site for Kamehameha III Elementary in the mixed-use Pulelehua project area below and just to the south of Kapalua Airport. PC: Department of Education

This timeline includes working with the Department of Education to finalize the specification and design of modular units and finding contractors who will perform the site preparation, and install those temporary facilities. “We are committed to getting this project done well and expediently,” said Col. Curry.

“Our goal is to complete this as quickly as possible,” said Col. Curry. “The children of Lahaina have gone through heartbreaking trauma, and the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Defense, and our partners are proud to play a small role in bringing back a bit of normalcy to these young lives.”

“This temporary site will be used until a permanent school is built. We are appreciative to the master developer, Paul Cheng, as well as to FEMA and the US Army Corps of Engineers, which will be building the temporary school,” said Hayashi.

“This site is centrally located within the existing attendance boundaries for the residential communities that Kamehameha III currently serves,” said Hayashi, which includes Kā‘anapali, Kahana, Honokōwai, Nāpili and Kapalua. “Kamehameha III Elementary School principal Jennifer Everett has been involved in the planning to ensure that this temporary school site will best meet the needs of the students, families and community, and also for the employees that is serves here in Lahaina.”

“Once the temporary school goes up, we want to be sure that we can get our students in, [and] get the support necessary for our kids. The process and the discussion that we’ll have, which involves community… will be a process where we engage community members and seek funding for the permanent site. As far as a timeline, it would be premature at this point to specify an exact number of years,” said Hayashi about the timeframe for use of the temporary site.


He said the capacity for the temporary school mirrors what King Kamehameha III enrollment was, so it’s approximately 600 students.

Gov. Josh Green said rebuilding will take years. “We know it takes years to build large school facilities and open them up. We know it takes years to build permanent housing. So we’re doing a lot of this in parallel, which means decisions get made after lots of internal discussion. We make sure the decisions are sound over the course of a couple weeks, and then we go,” said Gov. Green.

Out of the initial 3,001 students in the Lahaina Complex area, the department has been able to touch bases and verify contact with all but 45 individuals. “Each family may be addressing various challenges in different ways. For some families we’ve heard they may not be ready to reconnect, which we understand… for others, they may have moved and may not have left updated contact information, but nonetheless will continue to strive to make connections with them,” said Hayashi.

After weeks of comprehensive air, drinking water and soil quality testing at the three Lahaina campuses affected by the Aug. 8, 2023 wildfires, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education is set to bring students back to the Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena Elementary, Lahaina Intermediate and Lahainaluna High campuses as part of a phased reopening plan starting Oct. 16.

Lahainaluna “L.” (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.

“Central to our healing is to have education for our keiki. It is time to get our students back in school, to provide our students and families a return to a sense of at least interim normalcy,” Gov. Green said.


State Health Department Director Dr. Kenneth Fink emphasized that the campuses are safe for staff and students to return. Professional cleaning of all interior spaces is complete at Lahaina Intermediate and Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena Elementary schools, and is underway at Lahainaluna. Professional exterior cleaning is being scheduled for all three schools.

“We have done extensive environmental testing in the weeks since the fires, taking a close look at air quality, drinking water quality, and whether or not the grounds and soil at the three schools are safe for students and employees,” Superintendent Hayashi said in a news release. “We have worked very hard with experts in these different areas using specialized contractors and county, state, and federal resources to handle the testing and review and confirm the results.”

The results of the soil testing, which was conducted by an independent firm to detect the presence of heavy metals and dioxins, have been reviewed in consultation with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health. The soil at all three schools does not pose a public health risk and the campuses are safe for students and staff to return, according to the DOH. 

External air quality sensors have also been installed at the three campuses, with results publicly reported at fire.airnow.gov, and water testing data for the three schools from Maui County’s Department of Water Supply indicated “non-detect” for “all volatile compounds.” Additional air quality monitors are being installed on each of the campuses this week, according to a department update.

The phased reopening for respective schools includes the following:

Lahainaluna High School sign. (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.

Lahainaluna High: The last day for Lahainaluna students and staff sharing a campus with Kūlanihākoʻi High School will be Oct. 5. Faculty and staff will report to the Lahainaluna campus on Oct. 6 for a work day with no students. Following fall break, which runs from Oct. 9 to 13, students will return to their home campus on Oct. 16. It will also be the school’s Homecoming Week and the first Lunas football home game is scheduled for Oct. 21 versus Baldwin High’s Bears. 

Lahaina Intermediate School. (9.26.23) PC: Wendy Osher.

Lahaina Intermediate: Lahaina Intermediate faculty and staff will report to the Lahaina Intermediate campus starting Oct. 6. Students will report to that campus on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

King Kamehameha III Elementary was damaged beyond repair during the Aug. 8 wildfire incident. PC: Wendy Osher (8.29.23)

King Kamehameha III, Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary: King Kamehameha III and Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary faculty and staff will report to the Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena campus starting Oct. 6. Elementary students will return on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena Elementary School. PC: Hawaiʻi Department of Education (8.15.23)

Students and staff from King Kamehameha III Elementary, will be sharing campus facilities with Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena until the planned temporary school site being developed near Kapalua Airport is open.

“This school may be temporary but will stand as a reminder that, despite the grief and loss, these children will have a space to continue to learn, to dream and to thrive. We are proud to be here for them in this moment,” said Col. Jesse T. Curry, Recovery Field Office commander for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

“Our hope is that by providing the reopening dates with about three weeks of lead time, families can use the information to make decisions that are best for their situation,” Superintendent Hayashi said in a news release update. The Department is assessing distance learning options and the transition plan for its West Maui learning hubs.

Families of children who are enrolled in any of the three Lahaina schools are encouraged to fill out an online form by Oct. 8 on what they plan to do when campuses reopen.

Reopening timeline

  • Oct. 5 – Last day for Lahainaluna students at Kūlanihāko‘i High School and students at distance learning and special education hubs
  • Oct. 6 – Lahaina schools faculty and staff work day
  • Oct. 9-13 – Fall break for teachers and students
  • Oct. 15 – Lahainaluna boarding students move into dormitories
  • Oct. 16 – Lahainaluna students report to campus
  • Oct. 17 – Lahaina Intermediate students report to campus
  • Oct. 18 – King Kamehameha III and Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena Elementary students report to Princess Nāhi‘ena‘ena campus
  • Oct. 21 – Lahainaluna homecoming football game against Baldwin
Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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