Lawmakers question $35M in improvements to state's largest schoo - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lawmakers question $35M in improvements to state's largest school

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Lawmakers grilled Department of Education leaders in a budget hearing Thursday about the cost of adding much-needed classroom space at Campbell High School.

The DOE is asking for $35 million for a 30-classroom building. They say the school with more than 3,000 students is already well over capacity, and is expected to see 3,600 students by 2018.

But lawmakers say the price tag is far too big.

"A million dollars a classroom is not going to give us the kind of improvements that we need," said state Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. "We've got needs in every district."

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, agreed.

"It's not just Campbell," she said. "Ewa, Kapolei, we've got to look at building more facilities out there."

Luke believes pouring so much money into one school leaves many others in need.

Portable classrooms at Campbell are helping for now, but the school needs a more permanent solution. This school year, enrollment at the campus stands at 3,049 students. That's up 15 percent from 2010, when the school had 2,639 students. And it's 1,000 students more than the school had in 2005.

The proposed building will be three stories tall to save space; it will also be air-conditioned and state of the art.

But state leaders want to know why that one building will cost $35 million while an entire elementary school, Hookele, was built in Kapolei for $40 million.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, spokeswoman for the DOE, says the comparison between Hookele Elementary and Campbell High isn't fair.

"Campbell is one of our older schools, which means the infrastructure itself isn't up to date," Dela Cruz. "We have to redo the wiring, we have to dig and get in there."  

Hookele was built on an empty lot, and it was a design-build, which means one company did both, saving time and money.  

State leaders will finish the budget in May.

If the new classroom building at Campbell is approved, the principal hopes construction can begin immediately and the building can be ready by the start of the 2018 school year.

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