Months of lobbying, protests and fundraising could not save Kaimuki’s Queen Lydia Liliuokalani Elementary School from closure this June. Next April would have been the school’s 100th anniversary.

Numerous reader questions prompted us to check into what the department decided to do with the property, and here’s a spoiler: Those holding out for a new charter school in the area will be disappointed.

The Department of Education said the closure would save the school system about $530,000 per year, because small schools like QLS cost more per student. The closure was also done partly in the name of efficiency, because Queen Liliuokalani was scheduled for some costly maintenance projects in the next few years.

The school’s 100 students went to other nearby schools this year, leaving the QLS facilities available for “a wide range of possible uses,” according to the department.

The options included consolidating several Department of Education offices from scattered locations, establishing a charter school or opening an autism center.

The powers-that-be opted to turn the school into department offices, according to a June 30 memo from Randy Moore, assistant superintendent of school facilities and support services.

“Queen Lydia Liliuokalani School formally closed on June 30, 2011. The facility will be re-purposed for Department of Education (DOE) personnel. The DOE can begin to consolidate offices, which are now scattered, in one location and can reduce the rent paid to private landlords for office space. Until its conversion to office space, two classrooms at Queen Lydia Liliuokalani School will continue to be occupied by the Data Governance staff and the school custodian will remain on the campus.”

By consolidating its human resources offices, the department will save between $700,000 and $750,000 on rent paid on space at the Dole Cannery, Moore told Civil Beat. The cost of repurposing the elementary school will probably exceed that, he said, so it will take more than a year to realize the savings, but it’s a long term investment.

The department’s designers are working on the office plans, he said. Until then, the department cannot predict when the move-in will take place.

Meanwhile, the cafeteria is being converted into a much-needed data center for the department. Right now, Moore said, the department’s various servers are housed all over Oahu — some of them in places susceptible to flooding.

“We’re really taking DOE servers that are now scattered around in basically sub-optimal space and putting them in one space,” he explained. “And they are old servers, so it’s replacing the old with new ones that are more energy-efficient and higher capacity.”

Doing that and installing the electrical generators required to keep everything running dependably is going to be costly, he said but it’s money that the department needed to spend anyway.

“That’s something we needed to do somewhere sometime, and the fact that the school cafeteria popped up, it’s a nice thing to have,” he said. “It’s money we would have had to have spent sometime — it’s not money spent because we closed the school.”

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