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Kaka'ako school concerns include overcrowding

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jul 24 2013 05:13:00 PM HST

Department of Education officials are considering multi-track schools in response to the construction of multiple highrises in Kaka'ako.

HONOLULU -

Flashback to 1993.

Kapolei Elementary and Middle Schools opened their doors back then and they were busting at the seams on day one.

They even had to add portable classrooms to handle the overload.

The Kapolei schools, along with Millilani Middle and Holomua Elementary were built as multi-track schools.

That was the snapshot of reality in the second city.

But with the grand plans for Kaka'ako, the third city, should families moving into the soon-to-be-built high-rises expect the same growing pains?

The Department of Education has the authority to convert an existing school to a multi-track system.

The union that represents public school teachers wants to start talking about whether that's likely to happen.

"It's better that we start the discussion now, so we have a plan," said Wil Okabe, of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Queen Kaahumanu, and Royal Elementary will soon be at capacity with the Howard Hughes planned high-rises.

But if the head of DOE's facilities has anything to do with it, multi-tracking may not be in Kaka'ako's future.

"Multi-tracking, in my estimation, is an archaic way to answer a problem," said Ray L'Hereux, Chief of Facilities.

He said the mainland trend is to do away multi-tracking campuses.

Overcrowding has generally been addressed by adding portable classrooms, but that may not be viable in the Kaka'ako area, where space is at a premium.

"The community needs to be engaged because in the case of Royal School, it is a historic school. I don't think they have the capacity to add portables, because they don't have enough land," said Okabe,

L'Hereux isn’t a fan of portables either, but he assures the department is deep in planning.

Barring any construction delays with on the high rises that get the nod this summer,

L'Hereux has at least three years.

DOE is in talks with Hawaii Community Development Authortity about possible impact fee zones.

"If you look at development areas like Kaka'ako, like Kapolei, like central Maui we should address this and not just throw temporary solutions at it, " said L'Hereux.

He said the trend on the mainland is to do away with multi-tracking.

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