Imua Family Services plans new preschool in Wailuku for children displaced by Maui’s wildfires

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The outdoors contain a wealth of opportunities for learning, creativity, and exploration. Here, Preschool Director Lyn Constantino leads students from Imua Inclusion Preschool in putting to paper what they’ve observed in nature. PC: Imua Family Services

Imua Family Services is planning a new preschool in Wailuku for children displaced by the August wildfires on Maui.

Within a matter of days, Imua opened a drop-in childcare site in Nāpili. The effort was aimed at ensuring keiki remained active, engaged, and well-cared for while parents tended to the needs of their families.

Since then, Imua has been pursuing the creation of a preschool program at the Will Imua Discovery Garden in Wailuku to accommodate children who have been affected by the fires and relocated to Central Maui or whose parents are commuting to the area.

Preschoolers rest in the shade beneath the canopy of a giant monkeypod tree at Imua Discovery Garden. PC: Imua Family Services.

Plans for an outdoor nature-based preschool at Imua Discovery Garden had been in the works for some time. While they were previously awaiting permitting and construction, the recent disasters along with years of experience running Imua Inclusion Preschool, Imua’s accredited licensed preschool in Kahului, encouraged Imua to fast track its plans to open a second preschool location.

“Unfortunately, the process is neither quick nor easy, as the process of licensing any childcare or educational facilities involves many considerations related to setup, safety, and staffing. It is only due to the foresight included in Mayor Bissen’s Emergency Proclamation that Imua is able to temporarily move forward with its outdoor preschool concept while its new preschool building is being completed and made operational,” organization leaders said.

Prior to the wildfires, access to early education and preschool had already been a challenge on Maui and across the state. Fewer than half of children across Hawaiʻi attend preschool and early education programs before entering kindergarten.


While some families desire to care for their children at home prior to Kindergarten, there are nearly 10,000 children across the state whose families wish to send them to preschool but just aren’t able, according to Imua.

“Some challenges stem from affordability, but equally significant challenges include a lack of a sufficient number of preschool programs and qualified early education providers,” according to the organization.

Imua reports that nature-based education has been on the rise across the country. “With countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, problem solving, and STEM education, the outdoors is a perfect fit for addressing Hawaiʻi’s early childhood educational woes while simultaneously providing opportunities to learn about culture and the environment,” according to Imua.


While the final stages of the temporary preschool permit and staffing are put into place, Imua Family Services encourages families impacted and displaced by the wildfires to initiate the application process.

Families applying for a space at Imua’s new preschool location will not be charged an application fee, and the cost of preschool tuition will be supported by grants and community funding which will also enable the agency to provide crisis intervention counseling and support to the children and their families.

For families interested in applying, please follow the application process outlined at The goal is to open Imua Inclusion Preschool at Imua Discovery Garden by Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.


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