Kaua’i schools need $18 million fix

Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories about the public-school, repair-and-maintenance program

LIHU’E — Kaua’i district state Department of Education public schools are suffering from a repair-and-maintenance (R&M) backlog of $18 million, officials said.

And even if school leaders’ request for $5.5 million is granted, a grade-school math student can figure out that that simply won’t be enough to take care of that backlog.

State DOE Kaua’i district Administrative Services Assistant Gail Nakaahiki oversees all R&M and capital-improvement projects and facilities for the Central Complex.

“If the (state) Legislature and the governor would give us more money, then we could get all our schools fixed up. If only for R&M there’s the $18 million backlog, and we’re only asking for $5.5 million, you know there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”

The R&M process for major repairs takes time, she said.

Nakaahiki cited an example of a fire inspection in the fall of 2004 revealing the need to take care of rusting hinges of fire-protection doors.

School officials decided on automatic doors, and placed this project as a high priority for R&M major projects, and it was funded.

The initial scope meeting was held in November of 2005. Scope meetings give the person drawing the plans an understanding of what is needed.

After the plans are drawn, they will be sent back to school officials for further input. Once the plans are finalized, the project will go out to bid.

When the contractor is selected, a pre-construction meeting will be held before construction actually begins.

For this project, Nakaahiki was told that the probable time-line would have construction beginning during the 2006 summer vacation. Nakaahiki is concerned that the summer break will be too short.

Schools on the traditional calendar will end in June and start in July, due to the new, single school calendar effective for all public schools on the island for the 2006-07 school year.

Nakaahiki also pointed out that the money would not be expended until the job is completed. Nakaahiki was not sure if this one example would demonstrate and explain the discrepancy between how much Gov. Linda Lingle says state DOE officials have for R&M projects and the amount DOE leaders say they have for school facilities.

A need coming up during a fire inspection shows how the backlog list can grow, as items get pushed back in priority, she explained.

School inspections held each fall also reveal projects that may need to be added. School inspections are done by members of a committee including one parent, a community representative, one student, and school staff members.

The committee rates grounds, building interiors and exteriors, furnishings, health and safety, and sanitation, on a scale of 1 (unacceptable), 2 (satisfactory), 3 (very good).

Results are posted on the Web as part of the School Status and Improvement Report.

Tomorrow: Parent, community volunteers help out.

  • Cynthia Matsuoka, a Lihu’e-based freelance writer, is the former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi, and writes periodically on education issues exclusively for The Garden Island. Messages for her may be left with Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, at 245-3681, ext. 224, or pcurtis@kauaipubco.com

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