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Waimea school plans expansion


Stephens Media

Waimea Middle School now has about half the funding it needs to build a nine-classroom science and technology building.

School officials have been pursuing the funding for about 12 years, Principal Matt Horne said Monday.

Teachers and staff were “very pleasantly surprised” to learn legislators had approved the $5 million appropriation for the project, Horne said.

State Sen. Malama Solomon, D-North Hawaii, and Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona, South Kohala, pushed for the funding, Horne said.

Legislators had already appropriated $2 million for planning and engineering studies, as well as environmental reviews. Horne said the project is “shovel ready,” although the environmental work is still ongoing. Horne did not have a time frame in which construction would begin, although he said he hoped it would happen sooner rather than later.

The full project is expected to cost $12 million. Horne said legislators have told him getting the second half of the funding could be easier than acquiring the first half.

Right now, the school has three grades, with about 280 students using just one science classroom.

“Our technology is all retrofitted and not up to date,” Horne said. “Good teachers are going to be good teachers wherever they are.”

But it is difficult to teach students the college and career readiness standards the state has set with outdated technology and cramped quarters, he added. The school’s enrollment has also been growing, putting additional pressure on the existing classroom.

The new building will have four general classrooms, three science laboratories, two computer laboratories, two teacher planning rooms and a faculty center, conference room and restrooms. The 24,000-square-foot, two-story building will connect to the rest of campus via a walkway.

Horne said the building will be located on what is now a soccer field on the south side of campus, adjacent to the Malaai school garden. Locating science classes next to the garden will allow teachers to better integrate the garden into classroom learning, he added.

He praised the school’s teachers, who have been involved in the planning process.

“We’re all really excited,” Horne said. “They’ve been hearing about this for many years. Getting the funding is really validating for them.”

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