Are schools equipped to handle population boom in Kakaako?


Kakaako is touted as the place where families can live, work and play.

But is there enough room for kids to enroll at schools in the area? It’s a question raised by viewers who contacted us via Report It.

About 5,000 new condominium units are scheduled to go up in the next couple of years.

We wanted to know what the state plans to do if more schools are needed.

KHON2 spoke with the Department of Education and the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which approves the permits for the Kakaako developments. They say there are some challenges in figuring out exactly what type of school will be needed, if at all.

As the construction boom continues, the HCDA estimates that in the next 15 years, the population in Kakaako will double to 30,000 people.

So the DOE has to figure out how many of them will be kids and how many will go to public schools.

“How do you make sure the state is not stuck in a position where you have all these kids and nowhere to put them?” KHON2 asked.

“This is where communication is key. We keep in touch with the governor’s office. We keep in touch with the developers. We keep in touch with HCDA,” said DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

“We do know how many housing units and we know what size they will be, whether it be a studio, a one-bedroom, a two-bedroom, so that information is available and the Department of Education can use that information to determine what needs for children exist,” said HCDA community outreach officer Lindsey Doi.

The DOE has been in constant communication with all parties involved, because it has to determine if a new school needs to be built.

If so, would it be elementary, middle or high school and how many kids would go to private school instead?

The DOE says Kakaako is a unique situation that presents unique opportunities, like possibly building a mixed-use school that could accommodate grades K-12.

“What we’ve seen on the mainland is sometimes there are different levels of kids, so it’s not just the middle and high. Sometimes it’s a mix, but they are separated in the school from K-12,” said Dela Cruz.

There’s also the possibility that existing schools in the area can handle the growth in Kakaako.

McKinley High School’s principal says there’s plenty of room. The current enrollment is more than 1,600 students while the capacity is 2,100.

Principal Ron Okamura told KHON2 there’s been a drop-off in enrollment at schools in town because bigger families have moved to West Oahu where homes are more affordable.

“You see a lot of the families migrating out to those types of areas where they can afford a house versus staying in here where they would have to rent or they have to live in condominiums,” Okamura said.

Both the DOE and the HCDA say that if another school is needed, there will be time to build one to accommodate the incoming families.

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