State study seeks to prioritize repairs at Hawaii’s aging schools

State study seeks to prioritize repairs at Hawaii's aging schools
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The average age of Hawaii's 256 public schools is 61 years, and more than 50 campuses are over than 100 years old.

Farrington High School turns 80 this year.

Some structures on campus need electrical upgrades. One is waiting for a new roof.

But on the east end of campus, Farrington's "new wing" has a modern feel. A $3 million makeover enlarged classrooms, and the contemporary layout keeps students engaged.

"The teacher desk, chairs and old tables just doesn't do it anymore for our students," vice Principal of Facilities Ronald Oyama said.

A new state Department of Education study underway details the condition of the state's 5,000 public school buildings.

Dann Carlson, DOE facilities assistant Superintendent, said the information will help the department prioritize other campus modernization projects similar to what's being done at Farrington.

"When you have a campus that's as old as this, made out of concrete, we've got to use some of the brick and mortar that's already there, but then figure out ways so we can creatively convert that space into a more modern classroom," he said.

Meanwhile, securing funds to pay for improvement is an ongoing challenge.

"Public-private partnerships are definitely something we're looking at. I think it's the wave of the future," Carlson said.

The DOE has $134 million this year for school repair and maintenance. But there is at least $279 million in backlogged repairs across the state's public school campuses, reinforcing the need to tap into outside funding streams for school upgrades.

One recent success: The U.S> Department of Defense covered 80 percent of costs to modernize public schools on some military bases.

"On those schools we're talking projects upward of $90 million," Carlson said.

At Farrington, several big projects are coming to an end.

The $19 million football stadium's nearly finished. It cost $11 million to improve the auditorium damaged by a roof collapse. Meanwhile, plans for the swimming pool that has been closed since the 1990s are on the drawing board.

"That's where the location of our new gym and PE facilities will be," Oyama said.

As the DOE works to modernize more campuses, Farrington High School will be the model.

The challenge will be figuring how to secure the money to make Hawaii's old schools new again.


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