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New Kihei Charter School Campus Nears Completion

Artist's rendering Kihei Charter School. South Maui Learning Ohana image.

The new Kihei Charter School is nearing completion with final inspections and move in expected soon.

Until now the rapidly expanding school which serves grades K-12 has held classes in a variety of locations throughout South Maui. When completed the new campus will bring the entire student body together. It is expected enroll between 650 to 700 students in the elementary, middle and high school units.

The new campus is located on Lipoa Street in the Kihei Research and Technology Park on a site adjacent to the Maui Supercomputer.

Gene Zarro, head of the South Maui Learning Ohana, the non-profit organization that oversees school operations took MAUIWatch on a tour of the nearly completed facility.

Zarro said the building has approx 70,000 square feet on three levels housing 30 classrooms as well as offices for administration and staff, as well as kitchen and group meeting areas. He estimated the overall costs to be approximately $18.7 million. Mortgage financing for the structure was provided by the US Department of Agriculture. Lead contractor is F&H Construction. Zarro expressed his appreciation to school banker and builder as well as to a benefactor whose generosity and cooperation made it possible for the school to acquire the 2.75 acre building site in the tech park.

Click on individual images to enlarge.

Kihei Charter School is part of the Hawai`i public school system and there is no charge for tuition. Founded in 2001 the school has grown from an initial enrollment of about 60 students to a figure close to 700. Noted for its innovative programs, technology and STEM savvy approach and its consistently high test scores Kihei Charter is the only charter school on the island and is the only high school in Kihei.

The school has three branches; a virtual elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. Zarro said that teachers have already been assigned classrooms and furniture and equipment are continuing to arrive. The facility is awaiting final inspections and expects final certificate of occupancy and move in closer to the holidays.

Wailuku architect Morgan Gerdel who worked on the project in association with Nishikawa Architect of Wailuku termed the new campus “a successful team effort.” He called attention to the many rooms with high ceilings and large windows which maximize the use of natural light. The building is completely air conditioned, classrooms are designed to be flexible and multi-purpose and covered outdoor walkways connect the various parts of the building. He also noted that photovoltaic solar panels have been added in parking areas to help the facility with its electricity costs. The design phase took about a year while the construction period lasted around 18 months.

Gerdel praised the contractor saying that the collaborative effort helped the school to maximize its limited budget, adding that bringing the contractor in early and incorporating his recommendations into the planning proved a significant benefit.Artist’s rendering Kihei Charter School (image provided by South Maui Learning Ohana)

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About Susan Halas

Susan Halas is a Senior Political Contributor at MAUIWatch. She has followed Hawaii politics since 1976 when she moved to the Valley Isle. She was formerly a staff writer for the Maui News as well as other local print and digital publications.

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