Board of Education nixes moving Ka‘ahumanu School, advances Kaimuki High redevelopment plan
A proposal to redevelop Kaimuki High School’s campus is advancing, but the Board of Education on Thursday torpedoed the idea of moving Queen Ka‘ahumanu School to free up that campus for development.
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A proposal to redevelop Kaimuki High School’s campus is advancing, but the Board of Education on Thursday torpedoed the idea of moving Queen Ka‘ahumanu School to
free up that campus for
The ideas were presented to the board as possible trial projects under a state law, Act 155, passed in 2013 that aims to generate revenue from underused school property and use the money to modernize and improve Hawaii’s schools.
But board members said they saw no point in moving the bustling Ka‘ahumanu
Elementary School on Kinau Street, which serves 500 students in a densely populated area. And board member Nolan Kawano said it wasn’t clear the law permitted it.
“I’m not sure, actually, if Act 155 allows us to move a school,” he said. “My understanding is Act 155 allows us to lease the land that a school is sitting on.”
The board approved the Kaimuki proposal for “due diligence and investigation by the department.”
No details are available yet, but a department memo said the goal is to “design and build a new state-of-the-art high school via a joint-
venture project that would coexist with the high school.” Finance and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Kenneth Uemura said more information will come from the investigation.
Kaimuki High School, on a 34-acre campus bordering Kaimuki Avenue, has seen its enrollment drop to
688 students this academic year from more than 1,000 a decade ago. The campus also houses a charter school and branches of the Department of Education.
Board member Bruce Voss described it as the logical choice for a demonstration project under Act 155
to create “21st-century schools.”
“Looking at the purpose of the act, Kaimuki High School is clearly the greatest opportunity — a school that has been neglected to the detriment of its students and communities, 34 wonderful acres, an opportunity for a terrific master plan that could include affordable housing, better school facilities, perhaps co-locating with a charter school if it’s appropriate,” he said. “That’s the kind of opportunity we should be pursuing to see if this concept of
Act 155 can work.”
The other proposal called for relocating Ka‘ahumanu to the campus of McKinley High School with a “newly built, innovative elementary design with ample parking, play spaces and modern classrooms,” according to a memo Monday to the school community.
Ka‘ahumanu’s valuable 4-acre campus could then be used for teacher housing or commercial development. Board Chairwoman Catherine Payne said the Legislature had expressed strong interest in redeveloping the site.
But parents and board members objected for a
variety of reasons. Board Vice Chairman Brian De Lima said the proposal would “create so much anxiety for the families of the school” and serve no clear purpose educationally.
“To me there needs to be some semblance of understanding that this is going to result in something good for them if we are going to put them through this,” De Lima said.
Board member Maggie Cox said she could understand if Ka‘ahumanu had a very small enrollment, but its student body of around 500 is ideal educationally for an elementary school.
Parent Angela Maiwela questioned whether it made sense to mix elementary and preschool students on the McKinley High campus.
“I think developmentally, elementary school children are far different from high school,” she testified. “I just worry about the impact it’s going to have on them.”
Albert Gray, also a Ka‘ahumanu parent, said it made no sense to move a “really good” school that serves as an educational hub and cultural center for so many families from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, all in walking distance.
“Talk about modernization,” he said. “I just look
at it and think, the school is already a good example of what modern should be.
We don’t need to take this school, just because it’s in a high profitable area for commercialization, and move it somewhere else.”
Board members voted unanimously to delete Ka‘ahumanu from
The board also voted to rescind approval of two other sites because they lack sewer capacity for new development. They are 475 22nd Ave., which is used for curricular staff offices, and 4087 Diamond Head Road, a facilities maintenance base yard.
Another site, at 3633 Waialae Ave., remains under investigation as a possible site for redevelopment.