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Tuesday, May 9, 2000

By Gary Kubota, Star-Bulletin
Acting Lahainaluna principal Patricia Maielua stands near a
building where cows were milked by student boarders. At right
is where milk was stored. The school plans to start a nonprofit
foundation to help restore buildings and buy equipment.

Maui school,
oldest in West,
falling apart

Historic Lahainaluna High
seems to crumble away as
red tape delays repairs

By Gary T. Kubota


LAHAINA -- State officials are renovating the oldest American school west of the Rockies, listed as the school in the worst condition in Hawaii last year.

But some parents say state officials are not moving fast enough to improve Lahainaluna High School, nor are they doing as much as is needed.

"Lahainaluna is very historic. It should be a historic facility that's pampered and given the best of the best because there's so much history that is there," said Irene McPhee, whose children attend the school. "It's so very different from that. That always amazes me."

The school, on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains overlooking Lahaina Harbor, was founded as a seminary in 1831 for children of missionaries and Hawaiian royalty. It produced some of Hawaii's foremost native scholars, including David Malo and Samuel Kamakau.

This year, the school has fared better in ratings of conditions. It was rated "11" compared to a low of "8" in 1999.

State education facilities director Lester Chuck said repairs and improvements have been made since last year's assessment:

Bullet The plumbing has been fixed so sewage from a bathroom no longer backs up into the health room and other offices in the student activities building.

Bullet Workers are painting the gym building.

Bullet The electrical wires in the metal shop are no longer exposed.

Bullet The state is rewiring the campus, enabling students to have computer classes by August.

But parents say some problems persist or have gotten worse:

Bullet A termite-eaten roof that covered the garage housing tractors for agricultural students blew away in a storm about a month ago.

Bullet A building once used for milking cows and smoking meat remains weather-beaten and unoccupied.

Bullet Erosion is undermining some sidewalks on campus.

Bullet The school library, scheduled to start construction by June, is still in the design stage.

A major part of the library's construction that was supposed to take place during the summer is now expected to extend into the school year.

McPhee said that for whatever reason, the state takes too long to get projects done.

"We're deeply mired in a bureaucratic system that is making change impossible," McPhee said. "There are a lot of conscientious people there. I see so many give up in frustration and the kids do, too."

McPhee said state officials began working on putting computers into the classrooms two years ago.

McPhee said one school administrator wanted to buy a chair for $50 at a local store but had to wait for months before the state was able to buy one on her behalf for $200.

Acting Principal Patricia Maielua said the community is forming a nonprofit foundation to help renovate some buildings and purchase equipment for students.

Agriculture teacher Arthur Watkins said he'd settle for some supplies to put a new roof on the garage.

"If they can supply us with supplies, we can do the labor," Watkins said.

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