July 13, 2023 | Source: Honolulu Civil Beat

Opening In August: See Inside Maui’s New High School

The Kihei campus is the first new public high school to open in Hawaii in 23 years.

Maui officials have granted permission for the first public high school ever built in South Maui to finally open its doors to students. 

After months of inter-agency negotiations over how students would get across Kihei’s bustling highway in front of the new campus, county and state officials have reached an agreement that will allow Kulanihakoʻi High to welcome students when school starts Aug. 7.

Nearly 30 people gathered at a news conference Thursday to watch Mayor Richard Bissen, Department of Education Superintendent Keith Hayashi and other dignitaries announce the opening of the $245 million campus, the first public high school to open in Hawaii since 2000. 

The school’s opening had been delayed for months because the DOE failed to follow a 2013 order that required the agency to build a protected pedestrian crossing over the four-lane highway in front of the school. There’s still not funding for that project, and it’s unclear what the timeline is.

But in the meantime, Maui County has agreed to allow the school to open if education officials ensure that every student is driven to the new campus. 

“The students will be arriving by vehicle only – and not face the street crossing that the South Maui community rightfully raised concerns about,” Bissen said at the press conference.

Over the last year, Kihei’s high school students attended Kulanihakoʻi’s temporary location a mile away at Lokelani Intermediate School, where multiple teachers crammed into the same portable buildings. For those educators and their students, the opening of the most state-of-the-art public campus in Hawaii couldn’t come soon enough.

“Those of us who have been in the Department of Education for a very long time have never quite seen something like this before,” Kulanihakoʻi principal Halle Maxwell, who’s worked as an educator for decades, told reporters and county officials during a tour of the new campus.

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