After 11 years, school building might finally open
Inspection scheduled but no one knows how long until occupancy
No one really knows when Maui Waena Intermediate School’s new science building will open, aside from a final inspection of the elevators Feb. 9, the acting principal said Friday.
The inspection is supposedly the last barrier before the school is issued a certificate of occupancy, but it is unclear how long the process might take. Students and teachers are also skeptical that this truly is the final step of a building 11 years in the making.
“They’re becoming very discouraged, like it’s not going to happen this year,” acting Principal Jackie McCandless said. “The students just asked me Tuesday, ‘It feels like we’re never going to get in there.’ In many ways it breaks their heart. It makes me sad for them and our teachers.”
School officials originally held a blessing for the two-story, nine-classroom science, math, music and computer building in late September and hoped to be moved in by Oct. 17. The date was then moved to winter break or the beginning of the second semester in January, but that time also has come and passed.
Teachers have been living out of boxes, particularly science and math teachers who packed their materials and equipment months ago in preparation of the move, McCandless said. She said many teachers have had to unpack their tools for experiments and exercises.
“It really is a sad situation,” she said. “Our students are living on top of each other.”
At this point, McCandless simply hopes they can move in before the end of the school year. The students’ last day is May 26.
“We will make do with whatever we can,” she said. “It’s not a choice, unfortunately, and you can’t move in until you can move in. It’s sad.”
Media and technology teacher Jennifer Suzuki is holding her breath about moving in soon after several move-in dates have been delayed. She said she has been ready to move since before the school year and has a 3-D printer along with 20 new computers locked up in storage because there is no space in her current classroom.
“I don’t know what else they’re going to come up with,” she said of the delays.
The school’s Technology Club, which has become a powerhouse in digital media and robotics competitions, has about 120 registered students and is growing. About a dozen St. Anthony Junior High School students also visit after school for the STEMworks program.
“There’s a lot of activities that they could be doing that would make their learning more engaging and relevant, but can’t do it because there’s no space for it,” Suzuki said. “I’m frustrated and the kids are frustrated.”
Suzuki said some people believed they had moved into their building after the public blessing ceremony. She said she has had to clarify to some state lawmakers that the building is still closed, but she did thank other state and county officials for pushing to get it opened.
“I’m trying to keep in contact with people and let people know it’s still not done,” she said.
State Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, who represents Wailuku, Waihee and Kahului, said he was disappointed to hear of the latest delay. He recalled when the project was first proposed and authorized by the late Rep. Bob Nakasone over a decade ago and Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui was still in the state Senate.
“We probably have kids who have graduated high school by now when this project was first proposed,” Keith-Agaran said. “Maybe even graduated college.”
Two elementary schools also have opened since the building proposal — Pomaikai in 2007 and Puu Kukui in 2013.
“I think it’s kind of an anomaly,” he said.
Keith-Agaran said he has nephews and nieces at the school and is eager to see them use the science building for robotics and technology. He said he will have to watch future school buildings a little more closely and hold consultants to higher standards, but did not want to dwell too much on the mistakes and delays over the years.
“I think the most important thing is to get the building used,” he said.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.