Visible work on Kihei high set to begin

Roads, plumbing and grading kick off phase one of construction

Roz Baker

Roads, plumbing and grading for the new high school in Kihei should be completed in a year and a half, setting the groundwork for the construction of classrooms and other buildings for the long-awaited public school, a Maui lawmaker said Monday.

State Sen. Roz Baker, whose district includes Kihei, attended a private blessing at the school site last week with contractor Goodfellow Bros. Inc. officials and others to mark the beginning of the first phase of construction at the campus mauka of Piilani Highway.

The school is slated to open in the 2021-22 school year, the state Department of Education said Monday.

“I think it’s so exciting, a brand-new school.” said Baker, who has been fighting for more than a decade to get the school built. “Students and the community certainly been asking for this for a very long time. It’s taken way too long,”

Other recently built schools on Maui have been located in developments near infrastructure, like sewer and water, with developers donating the land. That was not the case with the Kihei high school, which will be built on 77 acres of scrub brush mauka of the intersection of Piilani Highway and Kulanihakoi Street. It is the first public school to drill its own drinking water wells.

Given the challenges, Baker said the DOE will probably not want to build another school in this manner.

Andrew Beerer, part of a Kihei Community Association committee pushing for the high school, called Friday’s event the “real groundbreaking.”

He could not attend the blessing last week because he was in Oregon but said that the event effectively kicks off the building of the school. He attended another blessing two years ago, but that only was for the digging of the water wells and installation of an access road.

There have been many stops and starts for the school through the years that “people don’t know to be excited,” he said.

“This is a huge first step,” Beerer said.

Phase two, which calls for the actual construction of buildings, recently went out to bid, but protests were lodged so a successful bidder has not been determined yet, Baker said.

There were five bidders — with about a $10 million gap between the lowest and highest bidders, she said. At least two bid protests were filed. Baker did not have an estimate on when the protests would be resolved.

“The good news is that the protest will not delay phase one and the project is moving forward. South Maui is getting its new DOE high school,” she added.

Phase two includes a classroom and library and cafeteria buildings, which are being referred to as “hale,” the administration building, a physical education room and two parking lots, along with a clay court and play field.

Beerer hopes the bid protest can be resolved soon so work on vertical construction can begin soon after the infrastructure is completed.

In April, Gov. David Ige released $92.5 million for the phase two work. These funds will be utilized and not lapse as has been the case in the past, said Baker.

The third phase includes a gymnasium and other classrooms for electives, such as music and industrial, visual and digital arts. The school also will have a track and outdoor basketball and tennis courts.

Students will be phased in by class, beginning with the freshman class, similar to how King Kekaulike High was started in 1995, Baker said. She noted that upper-class students who are already attending Maui High would likely want to graduate there.

Beerer and some community members preferred to have the school open to as many students as possible, not limiting the incoming students the first year to freshmen.

Beerer and others have said that South Maui families with multiple children in high school would probably prefer to have their children attend one school, not one in Kahului and another in Kihei. They added that South Maui students would probably want to attend the new high school and that having more than one class attending could reduce overcrowding at Maui High School sooner.

Maui High is counting on the new school to alleviate its high enrollment, which is exceeding the 2,000 student mark.

Maui High School Principal Jamie Yap said earlier this year that he wasn’t sure how many students from Kihei would go to the new school, considering it would have limited programs and facilities when it initially opens.

Both Baker and Beerer said it is fortunate that Goodfellow Bros.’ baseyard and offices are accessible through the back of the high school. This eliminates many trips by heavy equipment on Piilani Highway.

Last week, the state Department of Transportation said a temporary traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Piilani Highway and Kulanihakoi Street. A spokeswoman said this will help with construction access for the school.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at