Molokai Education Center has plans to expand facility

Multipurpose classroom to offer space for classes, community events

The Molokai Education Center wants to expand its current facility to include a multipurpose classroom capable of holding up to 250 people.

The classroom would contain three 1,000-square-foot bays with operable partitions. The classrooms are designed to be flexible learning spaces that would support classes, lectures, community events and graduation ceremonies.

A draft environmental assessment for the project was published in the April 8 edition of the Office of Environmental Quality Control’s “The Environmental Notice.”

The Molokai Education Center is the home base for the University of Hawaii system on Molokai. The center serves about 250 students and offers higher education classes that can be taught on-site or via cable, interactive TV and the internet. It includes two educational facilities: a building on the outskirts of Kaunakakai town and a farm in Hoolehua.

“As MEC continues to mature into a regional facility for higher learning, its campus must evolve to meet the growing needs of its student body, faculty and administration,” the draft assessment states.

“The design and construction of the new multipurpose classroom will provide necessary additional instructional and assembly space for the campus and the Molokai community,” it says.

The current facility includes a main building with three wings housing administrative offices, the distance learning and technology center and the library/learning center. A general purpose classroom is located at the southwest corner of the building.

Students can pursue certificate and associate degrees in seven primary majors from UH-MC, including liberal arts, Hawaiian studies, human services, early childhood education, agriculture and nurse’s aide training. Plans to include UH-MC’s three Bachelor of Science degrees are also underway, and students can also remotely pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees from other UH campuses.

But classroom limitations have kept the center from expanding to other degrees and certificates.

The proposed project would allow the center to serve more students, offer additional programs and degrees, expand noncredit programs and increase flexibility with class and lab schedules. With the new multipurpose classroom, the center would also have more space for computers as programs transition to web-based textbooks and lab instruction, as well as for distance learning “Zoom” classes with programs moving away from Hawaii Interactive Video Service (HITS) technology.

The center could also rent out the new facility, bringing in revenue that could help support it.

Maui Community College first offered off-campus instruction to Molokai residents in 1970 as part of its Molokai Outreach Program. Hotel operations and liberal arts classes were taught at Kaunakakai Elementary School, and the Molokai Farm, acquired in 1982, offered instruction for agricultural careers. In 1986, the college rented a 2,000-square-foot facility in Kaunakakai, and enrollment doubled.

The college chose a more permanent site in 1993 and opened the current facility in August 1999. The Molokai Community Plan allows the 5-acre campus to eventually expand to 15 acres.

The proposed multipurpose classroom would extend from the existing building by way of a covered walkway. Construction would start once all permits are acquired and is expected to take a year. The estimated cost is $3 million.

Comments on the project are due by May 8 and can be sent to Shawn Kodani at the University of Hawaii via email at kodani@hawaii.edu, via phone at (808) 956-0864 or via mail at 2327 Dole Street, Honolulu 96816.

To view the full draft environmental assessment, visit oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/EA_EIS_Library/2019-04-08-MO-DEA-Molokai-Education-Center-Expansion.pdf.

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

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