Contracts inked to cool county’s public schools

Nearly $8.3 million awarded for AC and ventilation projects

Five new contracts totaling nearly $8.3 million were awarded last month for air-conditioning and ventilation projects at Maui County public schools.

Kahului Elementary, Lahainaluna High, Maui High, Maui Waena Intermediate and Waihee Elementary schools have been slated for additional cooling improvements as the state chips away at a long list of schools in need of relief.

“I think it’s going to make a huge difference,” Waihee Elementary Principal Lori Yatsushiro said. “Last year was unbearable. . . . Everybody thinks Waihee is cool. But it’s so hot and humid.”

Projects for the contracts awarded in May include:

• Maui High: $4.4 million awarded to F&H Construction to install air conditioning for 44 permanent classrooms.

• Kahului Elementary: $1.45 million to F&H to install air conditioning in 16 portables.

• Waihee Elementary: $1.04 million to Arita-Poulson General Contracting to install air conditioning in 12 portables.

• Lahainaluna High: $786,800 to F&H to install air conditioning in eight portables.

• Maui Waena Intermediate: $629,000 to F&H to install air conditioning in five portables.

Many of Waihee Elementary’s 760 students pass through the portables that will receive air conditioning, so “the whole school actually gets impacted” by the upcoming project, Yatsushiro said. The portables host a wide range of classes, including resource rooms for science, technology, engineering and math lessons.

While school officials had hoped for units in its permanent buildings, the principal said she’s glad for any relief.

“The portables are hotter. You can feel a huge difference,” Yatsushiro explained. “It makes sense to have the portables get the air conditioning first.”

As with many other schools, recent measures to help cool the Waihee campus have included painting rooftops with white paint to reflect the heat. One parent even purchased a pair of fans for every classroom. School staff members also encourage families to send their kids to school with plenty of water.

“We’re constantly drinking water,” Yatsushiro said.

Meanwhile, the department continues to roll toward its goal of installing 1,000 classrooms with air conditioning. More than 1,000 units have been ordered and projects put out to bid, according to the department’s heat abatement project website. As of June 16, 456 classrooms had air-conditioning units installed and more than 1,000 units have been ordered.

So far this year, the state Department of Education has awarded nearly $23 million in contracts for heat abatement projects at eight Maui schools, four of which are on the state’s priority list.

Projects for contracts awarded earlier this year for Maui County priority schools include:

• Lihikai Elementary: $3.07 million for air conditioning in 33 classrooms; $1.85 million for air conditioning in 19 portables (completion for portables scheduled for Aug. 16).

• Princess Nahienaena Elementary: $2.61 million for air conditioning in 27 classrooms; $681,530 for air conditioning in seven portables (Aug. 16 for portables).

• Maui High: $3.17 million for air conditioning in 30 portables (Aug. 16).

• Lahaina Intermediate: $2.27 million for air conditioning in 22 classrooms; $891,250 for air conditioning in 10 portables (Aug. 16 for portables).

All but the $2.61 million job for Princess Nahienaena went to California- and Hawaii-based F&H Construction. The bulk of Maui County school cooling projects this year has gone to F&H, which has been awarded $19.2 million in contracts, and Maui-based Arita-Poulson, which has been awarded $3.7 million.

Over the summer, Lahaina Intermediate will be “in full construction” mode as contractors put cooling measures in place, Principal Stacy Bookland said. Plans call for a mix of air-conditioning and ventilation measures in four different buildings. Concrete slabs also have been poured behind the school’s portables in preparation for air-conditioning units.

“We are ecstatic,” Bookland said. “We just hope everything goes timely. I announced it to the teachers, and they were excited to come back to school with hopefully some air-conditioned classrooms.”

Kilohana Elementary is also on the state’s priority list and currently has four out of eight classrooms equipped with air conditioning, according to a department list updated June 13. At Lahaina Intermediate, five of 39 classrooms have air conditioning. Maui High has units in 21 out of 106 classrooms, Princess Nahienaena Elementary has them in six out of 46, Lihikai has them in eight out of 56. They’re among the 33 schools on the state’s priority list.

Of the 32 Maui County schools where the department is tracking projects, a quarter are fully equipped with air conditioning: Kamalii, Kamehameha III, Kaunakakai, Kihei, Lokelani, Pomaikai and Puu Kukui elementaries, and Puunene School, the Maui District special education building.

Central Maui Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran said he’s glad that the department has gotten around to almost all of the Central Maui Schools, but he said limited contractor options has stalled the program.

“I think everyone’s a little disappointed with how long it’s taken to get the contracts,” said Keith-Agaran, whose district includes Waihee, Wailuku and Kahului. “I think what’s good is the second round has a few more contractors. . . . Hopefully that’ll make it more competitive in terms of the prices that are being charged for each project.”

On Thursday, Gov. David Ige signed House Bill 957, now Act 57, into law. It allows the Department of Education to borrow money, interest free, from the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Loan Program to fund heat relief projects in schools. The department has to make payments on the loan using money saved by energy-efficiency measures. Some things the department has been doing to try to cut energy costs include covering 461 portables with heat reflective material, planting trees and installing awnings, ceiling fans, LED indoor lighting and photovoltaic air-conditioning units.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

COMMENTS