That daily moment of silence on the Kilauea School campus could be Principal Fred Rose praying for some student absenteeism.
That would be so the rest of the students will fit into the school’s tiny cafeteria when lunchtime rolls around.
Although there are two lunch shifts, Rose and his staff “almost have to count on students being absent so everyone else fits,” he said.
Even then, “the tables are so close together that it’s hard to walk between them,” said Rose, frustrated further to learn that Gov. Linda Lingle is waiting to release design funds for a new cafeteria approved by the state Legislature this year.
Russ Saito, state comptroller and director of the state Department of Accounting and General Services, said it has been Lingle’s rationale to not release design funds if construction funds aren’t available.
A new cafeteria at Kilauea School is estimated to cost the state $2.5 million, and the funds aren’t yet in the state budget.
The existing cafeteria has a capacity of 190, while the school has 319 students enrolled. A small stage within the cafeteria would be replaced by a larger one as part of the construction of a new cafeteria.
The $300,000 earmarked for design of a new Kilauea School cafeteria can’t be used for any other purpose, and those funds won’t lapse back into the general fund until 2007, Saito said, and could be released at any time before 2007.
“How much longer do we have to exist with substandard facilities? There’s gotta be a better way,” Rose said of the wait for a new cafeteria. “Maybe North Shore residents don’t speak with enough voices to be heard.
“Somehow we need to put education as the number-one priority,” the Kilauea principal said. “If it really is a priority, let’s step up and get it done.”
Rose said he does expect the funds to someday be released.
“Eventually we’re going to get it,” he said of construction of a new cafeteria.
Russell Pang, a spokesman for Lingle, said there is also a danger in releasing design funds if funding doesn’t also exist for both construction and maintenance of new facilities.
But the rationale of not releasing design funds because no construction funds are available didn’t sit well with state Rep. Mina Morita, D-Hanalei-Kapa‘a.
“Disappointment might be an understatement,” said Morita. “I hate hearing it termed ‘legislative pork,'” especially since both school and community constituents determined the need for the new structure.
“In the scheme of things, all we’re asking for is design money, so when funds become available (for construction) and the project moves up the priority list, the plans will be done,” she said.
“The need is there, the facility is old,” Morita said. “It’s a tight space. That community is growing. At the very least, get the project started.”
A new cafeteria is part of the school’s master plan to address some pressing school needs, Rose said. The new cafeteria would be built near the back, or makai, end of the campus, with the old cafeteria to be converted into the school office.
The existing school office, like the cafeteria, is too small, he said.
“It’s something that the community kind of needs, too,” because the Kilauea Neighborhood Center doesn’t have a stage or large meeting room.
Associate Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 224).