HONOLULU (KHON2) — A new high school on Maui is tentatively scheduled to open next week according to the Department of Education, but there are still some safety requirements that need to be addressed before it can happen.
The Kihei community has been waiting decades for its own high school. Now they have the $120M state-of-the-art Kulanihakoi High School campus.
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According to the Department of Education, it will tentatively open on Jan. 18, allowing roughly 30, 9th-grade students, the first Kulanihakoi High School class who have been taking classes at a nearby intermediate school, to move onto the campus.
One of the hold-ups is the construction of the roundabout on Piilani Highway and Kulanihakoi Street.
Robin Shishido, Deputy Director of Highways Division for the State Department of Transportation said it’s almost done.
“They have some signage to complete, a little bit of utility work that needs to be done and some paving that needs to be done in the middle of the roundabout,” Shishido explained.
“They also have some certification of the rectangular rapid flashing beacon that’s going to be used for the students or pedestrians to cross the road. So they just need some final inspection and acceptance by the engineer.”
Shishido said the work likely won’t be done until the end of January, but added that the campus could probably still open on the projected date.
According to the Kihei Community Association President Mike Moran, there is a legal roadblock that could hold things up, it’s a condition put in place by the Land Use Commission a decade ago.
“The State Land Use Commission said, ‘Yes, you build (the school) on the wrong side of the highway, everybody lives on the other side. So you have to put a grade-separated pedestrian crossing,'” Moran explained.
They never built it. Constructing one will take three to five years to build it.
In a statement, the DOE said: “The Department continues to work through the necessary steps to ensure the safety of all students. As part of that effort, we are committed to building a grade-separated pedestrian crossing across Piʻilani Highway. We are working closely with Mayor Bissen’s administration on the best way forward and plan to provide a more detailed update on Friday.”
In lieu of a raised pedestrian walkway, the DOE said they need a “temporary certificate of occupancy” to open their campus so they’ve developed a pedestrian safety plan to help acquire it.
The plan includes shuttling students to campus and posting crossing guards at the roundabout.
Moran said the DOE shouldn’t get a pass, they knew building the school in its location was contingent on also constructing a grade-separated crossing to the campus to get across Piilani Highway.
“We’re going to ask the Mayor to stand firm with a legal position,” Moran said. “As difficult as it is to say to parents who have been waiting all these years, but no, we still have to wait because it’s not safe.”
Moran said the DOE should have to follow the law just like any other business would.
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A spokesperson for Maui Mayor Richard Bissen’s office sent a statement: “The safety of students is everyone’s top priority. We received an update from the Department of Education this week and look forward to working jointly to get through the required process that has gone on for some time.”