HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A battle is brewing between Maui and West Oahu lawmakers over where to build the state's newest high school. There isn't enough money to build two, so which community should get the first?
State Rep. Bob McDermott, who represents Ewa, says he knows the answer to that question: "West Oahu will be screwed for 10 years if we build an unneeded high school in Kihei. We need another high school in West Oahu to relieve Campbell, to relieve Kapolei to relieve Waipahu."
Campbell High School is at 151 percent capacity with 3,086 students. Kapolei High, the state's newest, is already at 118 percent capacity with 2,063 students. Both schools are expecting enrollment to continue to grow in the next five years.
McDermott says a new school is desperately needed, but he doesn't think that will happen anytime soon if Maui gets its new high school in Kihei.
Last month, ground was broken at the site picked for Kihei High School. The school is expected to cost $130 million and there is no set timeline for when it will be completed.
Kihei doesn't have its own high school, so students travel 45 minutes or more to central Maui or Maui High.
"It does not have its own high school so our students deserve to have a high school," said Maui state Sen. Rosalyn Baker.
Enrollment at Baldwin High in Wailuku is at 1,400, or 88 percent capacity. Maui High in Kahului is at 1,850 students, which is 120 percent capacity.
But the projected enrollments for both Baldwin and Maui high schools are expected to decrease in the next few years.
That's why West Oahu lawmakers are questioning the need for a school in Kihei.
"This is a big deal," said state Rep. Andria Tupola, of West Oahu. "To send your kid to a school that you know is over capacity, that you know might not have enough services for your child."
Former state Department of Education Facilities executive Ray L'Heureux says building a new high school is something the state doesn't do quickly.
"The last one we did was 2002 so if we build one tomorrow you can anticipate, if we keep that rhythm, the next one wont be built for another 14 years," he said.
The DOE says it's have been in talks with the University of Hawaii West-Oahu campus and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to possibly acquire vacant land for a second high school in Kapolei. Those talks are preliminary and critics say that could still mean a decade of waiting.
Baker says the Kihei High School needs to be move forward and hopes it can be done by 2020.
She says it will ease overcrowding at all the Maui high schools.
"You can't stop one project just because somebody has decided another project needs another school," she said.