Group bemoans school site choice
Kihei High will not be built where residents want, a leaders says
WAILUKU » A community group is wondering why the state Department of Education did not select a centrally located site in South Maui for the new Kihei High School.
"It's great that they're doing it ... but we're just a little disappointed that the public opinion didn't seem to carry much weight in the site selection," said David Frazier, president of the Kihei Community Association.
State education facilities officials announced Tuesday they had chosen an area mauka of Piilani Highway and Kulanihakoi Street as the site.
The site, portions of which are owned by Haleakala Ranch and Kaonoulu Ranch, was chosen over a central Kihei site held by Maui County and a southern Kihei site owned by developer Genshiro Kawamoto.
Kihei High is scheduled to open during the 2011-12 school year.
Association officials estimate about 1,000 students go to high schools outside Kihei.
At an association meeting in June attended by education facilities officials, most members felt the central Kihei site owned by the county was better, Frazier said.
In a poll of some 100 association members Tuesday night, he said, no hands were raised to support the southern site, about 10 hands went up for the northern site and the remainder of hands supported the central Kihei site.
He said association members liked the central Kihei site because it is located in the middle of residential Kihei, just mauka of Kamalii Elementary School and near Kihei Elementary and Lokelani Intermediate.
He said that if the school were built at the county location, parents would be able to drop off and pick up their children with more ease.
Frazier said the county site already has a traffic light and also includes a plan for a future police station.
He said most residents thought that county officials might be willing to trade the land with the state to reduce the cost of development.
Gaylyn Nakatsuka, planning coordinator for the education facilities branch, said the selection was close between the northern and central Kihei sites.
She said her office felt the northern site was the best for a number of reasons, including its relatively flat topography.
Nakatsuka said that to obtain 50 acres of usable land for a high school, the state would have to buy about 90 acres at the southern site, 75 acres at the central site or 65 acres at the northern site.
Nakatsuka said some residents wrote in comment sheets at the association meeting that they did not want the high school close to the elementary school.
She said some residents also were worried that putting the schools close together could create traffic problems.
Nakatsuka said future residential developments planned for Kihei might make the northern site just as close to residential areas.
She said state facilities officials spoke with Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares and County Council Chairman Riki Hokama and that both indicated they wanted a land swap or something of value in return for the property.
Nakatsuka said that if the state pursued the county land, the development process for Kihei High would have been pushed back beyond 2011.
"That wouldn't work for the community," she said.
School facilities officials plan to work with Haleakala Ranch and Kaonoulu Ranch to define the boundaries of the school site and negotiate a price.