The Maui News - The state legislative conference committee, consisting of key members from the state Senate and House agreed last week Tuesday on a $23.7 billion biennium budget proposal that appropriates $130 million, as originally requested by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, for a new high school complex in Kihei. Lawmakers expect construction to start in July 2015.
"This is a very significant project that Kihei residents have wanted for a long time," said state Sen. Roz Baker, who represents South and West Maui.
According to lawmakers, $30 million will come from general obligation bond funds and $100 million from the state educational facilities improvement special fund.
"Students in Kihei will no longer have to go to Maui High or Baldwin High for school," said Baker. "It will take people off the roads, provide students with greater opportunities in after-school activities, and it will serve as a focal point for the community because they will be able to use the facilities at the school."
Currently, the only high school in South Maui is Kihei Charter School, with a total of 248 students in grades nine through 12.
That means the majority of students living in Kihei had to commute to other districts to attend school.
"In any other district, if a lawmaker was to ask constituents what their priorities are, you'll probably get six or seven answers at least," said South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing last Wednesday. "In Kihei, 99 out of 100 will mention the high school as a priority. That's how important it is to this community."
Ing explained that "fully funding and design-building the high school will save the state $20-$25 million from the standard phased-in approach."
"I am also extremely grateful to my fellow legislative members in both chambers who prioritized the long-awaited educational needs of our keiki over projects that may have been closer to home for them," Ing said. He explained that_ $130 million is a relatively huge amount, given that some legislative districts were allocated less than $1 million for capital improvement projects.
Ing added that the new high school will most likely have a gym, stadium, pool and tennis courts that will be "great, not just for education, but for the community."
Ing attributes the inclusion of Kihei High School in the House budget to the people of Maui who submitted testimony.
Both Baker and Ing commended the work of the Kihei High School Action Team for raising awareness, submitting public testimony and continuing to advocate for a new high school in South Maui.