New classroom building delayed (again) at crowded Maui school

New classroom building delayed (again) at crowded Maui school
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new classroom building at a crowded Maui campus is still empty, nearly three weeks after a blessing ceremony.

And Maui Waena Intermediate students might not be able to move in until after Christmas break.

The delay? School officials are still waiting for furniture and wi-fi needed for the phone system.

Officials at Maui Waena Intermediate School are frustrated by the latest hiccup for the troubled project that started a decade ago.

"We're in classrooms right now that are not really considered classrooms, more like work rooms and teacher lounges, so there is some sense of overcrowding," said Principal Jamie Yap.

With rising enrollment approaching 1,200 students, the school desperately needs the space. The new building has nine classrooms with air conditioning.

"We're on the tail end of this process, but everyone is anxious to enjoy the new, much-needed building," said state Rep. Justin Woodson (D, Kahului, Puunene, Maui Lani).

Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent for the state Department of Education, apologized for the delay.

"It shouldn't take this long," he said.

The state Legislature funded the $5.1 million project back in 2007. The price tag has now jumped to $6.9 million.

"We have ways in which we can cover that (cost). It does come at the expense of probably not doing another project across the DOE," Carlson said.

Several problems led to the delays.

Carlson said crews discovered ancient human remains during excavation. The project's architect, Kober Hanssen Mitchell Architects, also failed to secure the proper permits in a timely manner, according to Carlson. The company did not return a call for comment.

The Maui Waena project is being held up as an example of inefficiencies in how the DOE handles procurement and construction.

"It takes an average of about seven years for the DOE, from the time they start their planning process, to get a building constructed," said Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa. "But by the time they start, they already have to be in a crisis mode so it's a really bad system."

The DOE recently started pre-qualifying contractors before they can bid on large projects as a way to improve the state's procurement process.

"We've actually started using a two-step low bid process. It follows law, but it allows us to really screen out contractors and individuals that we don't necessarily want to do business with," Carlson said.

Meanwhile, Maui Waena officials can't wait to move into the new building.

"People are excited to get in," Yap said. "Teachers are excited to get in and hopefully, it can happen sooner versus later."

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