Temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary School Campus Dedicated March 25

By Edward RiveraMarch 29, 2024

Temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary School Campus Dedicated March 25
A Hawaiian dedication ceremony, which included pū and ‘oli, for the temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary School led by cultural practitioner Kaniala Masoe of Maui. (Photo Credit: Makenzie Leonard) VIEW ORIGINAL

Just north of Lahaina Town, along the West Maui coast nestled just below the Kapalua Airport sits a new place where many of Lahaina’s children will again learn, play, dream and unite in their healing. This spot between the mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west is the new home of the King Kamehameha III Elementary School.

A blessing and dedication ceremony was hosted March 25, by the Hawaii Department of Education with federal, state and local partners coming together to celebrate the opening of a temporary replacement campus for the King Kamehameha III Elementary School, which was damaged beyond repair in the Aug. 8, 2024, Lahaina wildfires.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after receiving a critical public facilities mission assignment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency handled the $78.8 million construction of the school, sub-contracting Pono Aina Management, a native Hawaiian organization.

“Today, I represent the Army Corps of Engineers and our contractors, who came together with a community, this school's leadership and Hawaii Department of Education on short notice to form a team that would deliver on a promise to build a temporary school for your children and for our children and we did it in 95 days,” said Col. Eric Swenson, USACE recovery field office commander.

The new temporary campus is expected to have about 350 students in attendance but can accommodate 600 students if needed. The campus is made up of 30 air-conditioned modular classrooms, an administration building, library, student support center, cafeteria and play areas.

“Some of you may think that 95 days is a long time, but I have news for you: in the construction industry is merely a blip,” said Swenson. “We got this work done quickly because the hands behind the tools were invested in the community and committed to delivering for their families, their neighbors, their neighborhoods, and their community. For most, this was personal and something for which failure was simply not an option.”

Speakers at the event included Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, M.D., Rep. Jill Tokuda, superintendent of the Hawai'i public schools system, Keith Hayashi’I, FEMA Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer, Curtis Brown, Col. Swenson and King Kamehameha III Elementary School Principal, Ian Haskins. Cultural practitioner Kaniala Masoe of Maui led a Hawaiian ceremony after the speeches, which included pū and ‘oli to complete the morning’s event.

Operation of the temporary campus is expected to be about five years, during which plans for a permanent replacement school will take place. Although temporary in nature, the new campus will serve the students, teachers, and families through a return to normalcy and provide a foundation for healing and togetherness.

“You know, when I think about students coming back and this place of learning, and I look at the ocean and up to the mountains I feel a sense of oneness our students will have here,” said Keith Hayashi, superintendent of the Hawai'i public school system.