Limited funding and space
constraints concern educators
With the creation of a Stryker Brigade at Schofield Barracks in 2006, at least 760 more students will pour into a handful of public schools in Central Oahu, including Leilehua High, already Hawaii's most-crowded school.
"We're scrambling to be able to deal with this," Assistant Superintendent Rae Loui told a Board of Education meeting yesterday. "We don't even meet the classroom shortage for our current schools, let alone meet an increase like this."
In a report to a Board of Education committee yesterday, she estimated the influx of students would cost the state $16.4 million in startup costs, including 40 portable classrooms, and another $3.5 million in recurring annual costs.
"It's not just facilities, it's teachers and all the operating costs," Loui said.
Educators are concerned because the federal and state budgets are already set for this fiscal year and next.
In its environmental impact statement on the Stryker Brigade, the military declined to provide help beyond the regular impact aid that typically covers 20 percent of the cost of educating federal dependents.
"To have the additional portable classrooms available for the start of the 2006-2007 school year, we need commitment of the funds by January," Loui said. "So we're already behind the curve. We're frantically trying to figure out how we're going to handle it."
Heidi Meeker, a planner at the Department of Education, warned that the projected increase in enrollment could double or triple.
She said she had been informed by the military yesterday that the number of new troops would jump from 810 to 2,200 because of the arrival of an aviation group. But that information could not be confirmed with military officials last night.
Along with Leilehua High, schools that would be affected by the Stryker Brigade are Hale Kula Elementary, Solomon Elementary, Wheeler Elementary and Wheeler Intermediate, none of which has any empty classroom space. With 1,760 students, Leilehua already had 450 more students than its capacity in the last school year.
Board member Garrett Toguchi said that military students may have to be bused to other schools, such as Waialua High and Intermediate School.
The Army has acknowledged that Solomon and Hale Kula will be exposed to noise from ordnance, and advises that new or renovated buildings be air-conditioned, but has said it is not responsible for that cost because it is not directly attributable to the Stryker Brigade.
"The DOE feels that Solomon and Hale Kula need to be air-conditioned and mitigated for sound and dust related to construction, vehicle maneuvers and exploding ordnance," Loui's report said. It would cost $7 million to air-condition both schools, which is included in the department's projected $16.4 million start-up cost.
Allen Awaya, education liaison with the U.S. Pacific Command, attended yesterday's meeting, but said he could not comment on the report. A spokeswoman at Schofield Barracks also had no immediate comment.