Education Priority: Work begins on Hale Kula renovation and expansion
July 9, 2013
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (July 5, 2013) -- Monday marked a pivotal moment in Hale Kula Elementary School's 54-year history when teachers, students and honorable guests gathered at the school, here, for a groundbreaking ceremony to begin a much-needed renovation and expansion of the campus.
These upgrades will be the first to Hale Kula since it was built in 1959.
"A lot has changed in education since then," said principal Jan Iwase.
"What we're doing here is not just increasing the space for our students, for teaching and for learning, but also to have things in place that are 21st century," Iwase explained. "(Teachers) talk about collaborating, communicating, creating and thinking critically, and when you think about those four things, the setup of the classroom needs to change from the traditional to one where kids have opportunities to work together on projects that will help them see the relevance of their learning today."
Creating more opportunities for future generations of Hale Kula students seemed to be the overarching theme of the event, as notable attendees that also included Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie; U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono; Kathryn Matayoshi, superintendent, Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE); Brig. Gen. Pete Johnson, deputy commander-operations, 25th Infantry Division; and Col. Daniel Whitney, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, all spoke of the immense influence a child's learning environment has on his/her education.
"Providing quality infrastructure for these children to learn and grow, that's the biggest thing -- to produce an environment that's much more conducive to learning and the educational objectives of the DOE," said Whitney.
"And certainly, when families go to look at a school, one of the first things they look at is infrastructure -- what are the bones of this environment," added Johnson, whose youngest son, Daniel, is a fourth-grader at Hale Kula and whose two older children also attend public schools in the Central Oahu area.
"These improvements are nothing but a positive," Johnson continued. "We're thrilled to be able to be a part of this; anytime we can invest in our children, it's all goodness."
The upgrades are part of an effort by the Department of Defense to improve public schools on military installations nationwide. According to HIDOE, military dependents make up 98 percent of Hale Kula's nearly 1,000 students.
A 2011 assessment ranked Hale Kula ninth on a list of 160 reviewed schools eligible to apply for a piece of the $250 million DOD Office of Economic Adjustment grant. In March, the DOD awarded Hale Kula $26.6 million in funds, with another $6.6 million provided by HIDOE, to go toward construction, renovation, repair or expansion of current facilities.
Through a charrette process, Hale Kula staff and parents brainstormed with members of USAG-HI and HIDOE, as well as architects from Design Partners Incorporated, to create a campus that will best accommodate their needs.
"We got the chance to think outside of the box and design not just the traditional school as we know it, but a school of the future," Iwase said.
Plans call for a new administration building, a two-story student center and library-media center, a covered outdoor play court, additional classrooms and for the renovation of existing classrooms, to include replacing asbestos-ridden tile and repainting chipping facades.
"The new administration building will include a room for parents as well as a transition center," Iwase noted. "Having that (transition center) right there in the office is a really wonderful thing, as it will greet the parents the minute they come into our school.
"The media resource center is going to be really exciting, too," Iwase added, "because it's a whole new view of what a library is. It's more than just books; it's a resource for students so that they can create projects and really research and learn about questions that they have."
The project is expected to take three years to complete, with improvements to be done in phases so that the school can remain open to its students.
"This has been such a partnership with the DOD, the military and the state -- everybody really had to work together," Iwase said.
"It's truly a team effort -- they drove the train, but we assisted to the best of our ability throughout the process," Whitney added. "Most importantly, it's a better environment for learning, and that's what we're really after -- a good environment in which our kids can learn and grow."
"It's just a really exciting time for our kids," Iwase agreed, "and it couldn't have happened without the support of so many people."