HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials with the Hawaii Department of Education said they are prioritizing purchasing the former St. Francis School in Manoa Valley, the private school closed its doors for good back in 2019 and the DOE said the property could be a useful asset for the state.
It was a surprise for many parents when St. Francis School permanently closed its door and since then, the more than 11-acre property has sat idle, waiting for what is next.
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The DOE Deputy Superintendent Curt Otaguro said a property of this size is rare to come by.
“Look at the property, it’s 11.12 acres,” Otaguro said. “So that’s hard to come by, the DOE and the State would acquire that, that’s another piece of parcel that we could take as is and develop over time.”
The DOE said the former private school would be used as a training facility, offices and even to house staff overnight who travel from neighbor islands.
“The two convents that the nuns, the sisters lived at, one was converted to classrooms which could easily be converted back to some sort of housing,” Otaguro told the Board of Education. “It has a kitchen that would need to be renovated of course, so you’re talking about 130,000 square feet of space.”
For at least one neighbor, hearing the DOE is interested in purchasing the former school brought him some relief. Howard Luke said he and others in the neighborhood are worried about private owners coming in with plans for a major development.
Luke said, “I think that’s the general sentiment that I’ve heard from our neighbors I’ve spoken to. Everyone is concerned that some monstrosity might result if the wrong purchasers are, you know, successful in buying the property.”
The property has an assessed value of more than $32 million, when BOE members asked the DOE to justify the acquisition, the DOE’s Office of Facilities and Operations Assistant Superintendent Randall Tanaka said the state would eventually save by no longer having to rent certain working spaces.
Tanaka said, “One of the spaces we rent is at Dole Cannery for our OITS operation and our OTM operation and that operation rental costs us about a million a year. So to get out of those situations, there’s an opportunity to purchase.”
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The Sisters of St Francis of the Neumann Communities remain the owners of the property according to City documents.