Kulanihako’i High School
Kulanihako I 64d2b73489b2d

Long wait ends as newest high school in Hawaii opens

Aug. 8, 2023
Kulanihako’i High School on the island of Maui welcomed students for the first time after years of bureaucratic delays.

After years of efforts from lawmakers, community groups, parents and students, Hawaii's newest high school has finally opened.

The Maui News reports that Kulanihako'i High School in Kihei on the island of Maui welcomed students to the $245 million campus on Monday.

Principal Halle Maxwell says 139 students--freshmen and sophomores--are enrolled at Kulanihako'i High. Higher grade levels will be added in the next two years.

The community has encountered years of funding and bureaucracy hurdles as it struggled to make the school a reality. The opening has been stalled because the state Department of Education had not fulfilled a 2013 requirement from the state Land Use Commission to build an underpass or overpass to the school for students and pedestrians.

Eventually the county and the state came to the agreement this year to issue a temporary certificate of occupancy; the state agreed to temporarily indemnify the county against theoretical future claims of liability because an overpass has not been built.

Students will need to ride a bus, a school shuttle or be driven to school. The design for an overpass is being developed.

As of now, the campus includes an administrative building, library/cafeteria building, classroom buildings and a play court.

A building for electives along with sports fields will be completed in the future. 

At full capacity, the campus is designed for an enrollment of 1,600 students.

The vision for a high school in South Maui stretches back decades. The state legislature made multiple appropriations to the project for design, land acquisition and permits dating back to 2004. But in 2011, nearly $20 million in funding for the project was allowed to lapse.

In 2013, the legislature allocated $130 million for the school in its budget, but the Department of Education was able to access only some of the funding because of a procedural issue. The department decided to build the school in phases as funding became available.

A groundbreaking was held for the high school in January 2016, with hopes the school could open in 2020. The targeted opening date has changed multiple times over the years.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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