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Put children first — Make sure West Maui’s third elementary school is built

By Staff | Jun 18, 2020

Lahaina 3 has been on the West Side drawing board longer than the Lahaina Bypass. The promised third elementary school for our community has a long, dark history, buried in the pages of community plans and state budgets. The educational facility has become a moving target and appears to have been written with invisible ink.

One of its earlier mentions was in December 1968 in the General Plan for the Lahaina District, County of Maui, as a school house (K-3) situated in the Napili-Kapalua district.

In 1971, the idea of an elementary school was drawn on the map of the Napilihau Planned Development. Subsequently, Napilihau was built, but the educational facility to serve the children living in this neighborhood was not.

Thirteen years later, the pin for the much-envisioned school was relocated uphill in the proposed 200-acre Napilihau Mauka Project District 2, a residential subdivision, including a six-acre site for an elementary school.

It was a pipe dream that never made it off the table. Times changed, as did the will of the landowner, Maui Land and Pineapple Co. Inc. (MLP).

During the drafting of the West Maui Community Plan, 1996 edition, MLP told the 13-member Lahaina Citizen’s Advisory Committee (LCAC) that a school, park and residential community (Project District 2) could not possibly be built in an area where families lived and children played, with toxic materials stored in, around and under their pineapple base yard.

Abracadabra, at the thought of a chemical spill, Project District 2 (Napilihau Mauka) morphed into Kapalua Mauka, and the six-acre grammar school joined the move north. Few imagined the dream of a public school constructed on land situated in a high-end resort would ever come true; and it didn’t.

Flash forward to 2006 – the vision of a public elementary school emerged as one of the components of the Pulelehua development, a Maui Land & Pine 312-acre project district planned for the working families of Maui, and the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) supported it.

Heidi Meeker, HIDOE land planner, advised the Lahaina News in 2006, “Right now, Lahaina 3 is scheduled to open in the 2011 school year that ends in 2012.”

What the Lahaina News liked about the MLP petition was its straight forward language: “It is critical that construction of the public elementary school at the school site be timed to coincide with occupancy of the housing.”

MLP sold the Pulelehua project district to Oceanview LLP in 2016 for $15 million.

With the transfer of the land, a HIDOE communications specialist advised that the funding for the school is in limbo. “The donation of the school site agreed upon between Maui Land & Pine (ML&P) and the HIDOE has not occurred yet following the change of ownership, as it is contingent upon the Pulelehua development.”

Additionally, the language in Oceanview LLP petition has changed. The stipulation that the school be built concurrently with occupancy has been removed.

Oceanview LLP, however, “has agreed to explore private financing and construction options with local Maui developers who have financed and constructed Maui schools previously for the State of Hawaii.”

With those words, there are no promises.

However, contrary to previous reports, the LUC Final Order for the Pulelehua project has not been issued, because COVID 19 has prevented the Land Use Commission from meeting for that purpose. The commission is tentatively scheduled to meet in July.

Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and put our kids first. Demand that the petition revert to the original MLP language. The school should be built concurrently with Pulelehua occupancy.