Hawaii Island preschool to remain closed as legal wrangling over lead continues

To date, the school says it’s spent $40,000 on lead remediation services.
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 4:11 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2022 at 6:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An unlicensed preschool on the Big Island that was forced to shut down partly over lead concerns will remain closed through the new year.

For the past month and a half, the state Department of Human Services and Kalamapii Playschool have been in court just about every week.

From the beginning, Judge Peter Kubota made it clear he wanted the state to work with the school in hopes it could reopen due to the extreme need for early childhood education in Hilo.

So he ordered both sides to work together in an effort to get the preschool its license ― even appointing a mediator to help.

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But that license has yet to be issued.

At a status conference earlier this week, the judge did say some headway had been made on one of the issues.

“The certification of teachers, Ms. Pierce has made some progress and is working with the DHS about certifying the teachers,” he said.

The other issue is lead.

DHS continues to seek more proof contamination on the buildings themselves and in the soil has been properly dealt with. To date, the school says it’s spent $40,000 on lead remediation services.

Instead of dealing directly with the school’s executive director on the issue, the state is now working with the property owner as well after the school’s lease came into question.

“We are looking to see the extent of the DOH remediation plan,” said attorney Gary Zamber.

He added an environmental firm has visited the property and hopes to have a plan by early January.

The issue with lead isn’t unique to Kalamapii Playschool.

At least 18 other schools on the east side of Hawaii Island have environmental hazard mitigation plans.

The school’s closure is leaving scores of parents in limbo at a time when child care is incredibly difficult to find.

The next court date is set for Jan. 24.