Lawmakers promise to help Campbell High’s overcrowding: ‘It’s our fault’

Are state lawmakers doing enough to deal with the overcrowding issue at Hawaii’s largest public schools?

It’s a question we’re asking after learning that Campbell High School’s incoming freshmen class is larger than the entire student body of other schools.

At the state’s largest high school, some teachers are juggling class sizes that are startling, even to lawmakers who live in that area.

When told one teacher had 52 students in his class, Rep. Bob McDermott, R, Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point, said, “That’s a prescription for failure.”

“I was shocked, disappointed. We need to do better,” said Rep. Matt LoPresti, D, Ewa Beach, West Loch Estates.

When KHON2 spoke with the complex area superintendent Wednesday, she said the Legislature did not provide the Department of Education with money for a new building at Campbell High School, which officials say would help with the overcrowding.

Lawmakers provided the department with a lump sum of $10 million to deal with overcrowding issues across the state. The DOE is using a portion of that toward plans for a new building at Campbell, but that’s nowhere near enough for construction.

KHON2 also found out that during this past legislative session, lawmakers did approve money for specific schools. Campbell was not included.

“Why didn’t Campbell receive the money to build a new building?” KHON2 asked.

“It’s the Legislature’s fault. It’s our fault. We don’t have our priorities together. I’m not a big fan of the DOE, but on this one, it’s not their fault,” McDermott said.

Lawmakers approved $10 million for a new eight-classroom building at Lahainaluna High School on Maui, $4.7 million to expand the band/choir building and to build weight training and wrestling rooms at Maui High, and $9.9 million toward a performing arts center at Moanalua.

school spending graphic

The money doesn’t just benefit high schools. Washington Middle School is receiving $1.75 million to turn a classroom into a recording studio.

“Weight rooms, things of that nature, are all wonderful, but you need classrooms, my goodness. Are we brain dead?” McDermott said.

Lawmakers in Ewa Beach said they will try harder next legislative session to get the money needed to expand Campbell High School.

“When will they receive the money to actually construct the building?” KHON2 asked.

“Hopefully that will be in next year’s budget. I know I’m going to fight really hard for it,” LoPresti said.

“The Legislature has a gun to their head this time, because if we don’t give them money this time, in three or four years, those kids will be in the gymnasium taking classes,” McDermott said.

McDermott said he and others in the community are also trying to get private grants to help Campbell.

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