Buses will transport students on an interim basis as the state builds a $25 million pedestrian bridge. over the next three years.

Students at the new Kulanihakoi High School in Kihei will likely be able to attend a newly built school when the next school year starts later this summer, Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday in a release.

The long-anticipated opening of the South Maui school seems closer than ever following a deal reached this month involving Maui County, the Department of Education, the state Land Use Commission and Green’s office.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen first spoke about it in his State of the County address on Tuesday evening but he didn’t say when the school would open.

An artist’s rendering of Kulanihakoi High School. (Courtesy: G70/Department of Education)

In a news release on Wednesday, Green said students will be allowed to physically attend Kulanihakoi High School after construction is completed and the Department of Education sets an opening date.

“The Department of Education is optimistic that Kulanihakoi High students will be able to start the new school year in August at the new campus. We will continue to work closely with Maui County, Gov. Green, the state Department of Transportation and the Land Use Commission to address any concerns and ensure student safety,” said Deputy Superintendent Curt Otaguro in the release.

The high school has been bogged down in heavy bureaucracy and agency infighting for at least a decade. The Land Use Commission ordered the Education department to build an overpass or an underpass so that students could safely cross Piilani Highway to access the campus. Instead, the department built a four-lane, multimillion-dollar roundabout as a possible alternative.

The state built a new roundabout instead of an overpass or underpass for students to cross the highway to the new school. (Courtesy: Department of Education/2023)

Now that an agreement has been reach among the various parties, the Land Use Commission will issue a temporary certificate of occupancy to the education department in exchange for the state temporarily agreeing to indemnify Maui County against “theoretical future claims of liability.”

School buses will provide transportation on an interim basis to students trying to reach the school.

Construction of a pedestrian bridge will take three years to complete at an estimated cost of more than $25 million, according to Green’s release.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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