DOE lacking Maui County approval to open new Kihei high school

The area in front of the school is still an active construction zone.
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 7:16 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2023 at 8:10 PM HST
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KIHEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new $120-million high school for South Maui is scheduled to open next week.

However, the state has yet to meet all the requirements.

The Hawaii Department of Education still needs to obtain “temporary certificates of occupancy” to legally open the school.

It is unclear if the county will sign off on it, or make them wait until all the pedestrian safety measures are complete.

“The County, like everyone involved, believes that the safety of students is the highest priority. This has been a very long process and we all need to work together to get through the required process,” said Mahina Martin, Maui County Chief of Communications and Public Affairs.

The DOE announced that Kulanihakoi High School is slated to open on Wednesday. However, there is new doubt about whether that will happen.

The area in front of the school is still an active construction zone and work will not be completed until next month.

“They just have some cleanup work to do, it’s in the medians, putting up some signage, some final paving, also in between the two phases that they worked on earlier,” said Robin Shishido, state Department of Transportation Highways Deputy Director.

“They have some final inspections on the rectangular rapid flashing beacons that were installed,” Shishido added.

10 years ago, the state required the Hawaii Department of Education to put in a grade-separated pedestrian crossing — like an overpass or underpass — across Piilani Highway so pedestrians can get to the school safely.

However, construction for that is estimated to take up to five years depending on funding.

In the meantime, the state built a two-lane roundabout to slow traffic down. The roundabout will include raised crosswalks, signage, and flashing beacons to alert drivers when pedestrians are crossing the street.

“I would want them to at least test it out,” said Kihei father of three Jonathan Takahama. “Because as of right now, I don’t think it’s safe.”

Jonathan Takahama lives right across the street. His oldest will be attending the school in a couple of years.

“People that are on the highway, they’re speeding all the time, and you hear accidents almost every other week,” Takahama said.

DOE plans to have school-operated shuttles for students until the crossing is completed.

Communications Director for the DOE said it is working on the necessary steps to ensure the safety of all students.

“We are committed to building a grade-separated pedestrian crossing across Piilani Highway. We are working closely with Mayor Bissen’s administration on the best way forward,” said Nanea Kalani.

Kalani said the DOE will make an announcement on Friday on next steps.

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