Gov. Linda Lingle hosted a back-to-school event for students yesterday at the state Capitol and Washington Place. At Washington Place, Lingle talked with Salt Lake Elementary student Stacey Cha, left, Principal Duwayne Abe and students Susan Yogi and Sydney Miyashiro, facing away from the camera.

Governor releases
funding for schools

$120 million will go toward
construction and repairs,
a total some say falls short

Schools receiving top priority

The following schools were atop the Department of Education's funding priority list:

>> Maui Lani Elementary, received $13 million.
>> Waipahu High School, $3.2 million
>> Waianae High School, $3.2 million
>> Hana High and Elementary School, $3 million

Gov. Linda Lingle has released $120 million for construction and repair projects at Hawaii public schools, but some say the demand is much greater.

"We are committed to actually putting those monies to work, to really having the nails hammered in and improvements actually get done," Lingle told students, teachers and legislators who had gathered at the state Capitol for a back to school celebration yesterday.

Lingle used the event to announce the release of $120 million for improvement projects for the 2004 fiscal year, which started July 1.

The money includes $35 million for repair and maintenance projects including re-roofing, draining improvement, and classroom and restroom renovations. About $85 million will fund capital improvements such as structural repairs, installation of air conditioning, and lead paint and asbestos removal.

Capital improvement money will be distributed to schools based on a priority list created by the Department of Education, which ranked projects statewide based on need.

The top four schools on the department's priority list have received a substantial amount of funds to build new facilities, according to the governor.

The state is providing $13 million for the first phase of construction of Maui Lani Elementary School in Kahului. Hana High and Elementary School will receive $3 million to build a six-classroom building, and Waianae and Waipahu high schools will receive $3.2 million each for the construction of eight-classroom buildings.

Greg Knudsen, spokesman for the Department of Education, said that the schools appreciated the money. However, he noted, that the capital improvement funding fell far short of demand.

"In reality, we need about $200 million," he said. "We've got a long way to go to make all our campuses equitable."

State Sen. Cal Kawamoto agreed.

"We do appreciate her releasing some of the money. But to catch up with some of the backlog, we need to spend more," he said.

Kawamoto (D, Waipahu) cited a school in his district, Highlands Intermediate School, where there are 800 kids who want to enroll in band curriculum, but the band room can fit only 500 students.

"We need about $1.2 million to complete the extension of the Highlands band room," he said. "Pearl City is noted for its high school marching band. You gotta provide for the roots of the members of the band, and 90 percent of them come from Highlands."

Some students who attended yesterday's ceremony noted that conditions at their schools are less than satisfactory.

Eleven-year-old Tiffany Tran from Makalapa Elementary in Salt Lake said she gets soaked when it rains because her school's "roof is falling down."

Money released yesterday will go toward roof repair at Makalapa.

Tenemane Malufau-Howell, 9, said Kaiulani Elementary needs plumbers and bug repellent to combat flooded bathrooms and ants.

Malufau-Howell, who is her school's student council treasurer, said a lot more money must go into making Kaiulani Elementary a "better place to go to school," she said.

Lingle said that the construction and repair projects are needed not only for the students, but also to provide "better environments for the teachers to teach in."

"We want to focus on making sure roofs don't leak, that the rooms are comfortable and not too noisy, and all the basics that make our schools a good learning environment for everyone," she said.

Knudsen noted: "The event today was a statement of commitment to support learning environment at our schools. We hope the governor will be behind us when we seek funding in the next fiscal year."


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