Kihei gets high school offer
A real estate developer's plan would feature solar power and energy-efficient indoor lights
AFTER PUSHING for its own public high school for years, fast-growing Kihei has taken a step forward with an offer by Maui real estate developer Everett Dowling to build one for the state.
Dowling's offer coincided with the Board of Education's recent move to insert a request for $700,000 in design funds for the future school in a capital improvements budget.
"This is definitely the best shot we've had so far at making the high school happen," said David Frazier, acting president of the Kihei Community Association.
Dowling, who designed and built Kihei's Kamalii Elementary nine years ago, said his engineers are studying two potential parcels for the high school, but he declined to specify their locations.
He would design and build the school and turn it over to the state on a lease-to-buy basis, most likely over a period of around 30 years.
"At the end of that, they'd own it," Dowling said.
Dowling earned praise from the community with Kamalii Elementary, which came outfitted with computers and air conditioning and was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
He is setting even higher standards for the high school, envisioning a "sustainable school" featuring solar power and energy-efficient natural indoor lighting that will be of "great benefit to taxpayers."
"Over time, that kind of thing offsets the upfront costs for a long-time owner like the state," he said.
Residents have long complained that the commutes to Baldwin High in Wailuku and Maui High in Kahului inhibit students from south Maui from participating in extracurricular activities and add to the Valley Isle's growing traffic congestion.
Hundreds of students commute or are bused out of the Kihei area daily, but hopes for a new high school in one of Hawaii's fastest-growing communities routinely took a backseat to the state school system's other pressing construction needs.
The Kihei Public Charter High School opened in 2001 but has been unable to satisfy demand.
Maui's state Board of Education Member Mary Cochran successfully pushed fellow members to include design funds for a new high school in a $100 million budget of Department of Education capital improvement priorities now on its way to Gov. Linda Lingle's office.
Cochran said Dowling's offer was "the selling point" that convinced other board members to back the high school plan.
Many hurdles remain, including the need to secure approval for legislative changes related to the lease-to-buy arrangement in the coming legislative session, said Rae Loui, the department's superintendent for business services.
"Private developers can build schools better and faster than we can," Cochran said. "We've had really good experiences with (Dowling) and would welcome some type of arrangement with him."