Should the public be allowed to use a school’s electric-vehicle charger?

Kaimuki Middle School

An electric-vehicle charger installed at a public school is raising questions about whether the public should be allowed to use it.

At Kaimuki Middle School, there’s a sign on the charger saying only school staff are allowed to use it.

A viewer told us about it using the Report It feature on our website.

The principal of the school says people outside the school have been driving on campus and charging up their cars without permission at all hours, day and night. So it’s not just the cost, but it has also become a safety issue.

Kaimuki Middle School installed the EV charger this year, powered up by solar panels that can also help reduce the cost of electricity on campus.

But the principal says it has attracted unwanted guests looking for a free charge, so the sign was posted recently restricting the charger for staff.

The move initiated strong reaction, both for and against it.

“It’s not right, because people gotta use it too, yeah, so I don’t think it’s right,” said Waipahu resident Donald Dias.

“I think the school has to restrict it, because of access, because the children are there,” said Ewa resident Don Lockwood. “You can’t have people sneaking around the parking lot at night.”

The State Department of Education says there are EV chargers at nine public schools and they were built to charge up vehicles used by the school and for staff.

Even though it’s solar-powered, DOE says the cost is not that cheap.

“It is substantial. I would say it’s about half of what a normal utility rate is and it’s all done through a power-purchase agreement that we were able to install those PV panels,” said Dann Carlson, DOE assistant superintendent.

Part of the problem is there’s a park right next to the school, so even when the school closes its gates after hours, when the park’s open, people can still drive through the park entrance and get on campus.

DOE says it’s a problem that it didn’t anticipate but is working on a solution by locking up the charger itself.

“Lock it up so that when you’re not using it after hours, we can lock it up so we don’t have that safety risk,” said Carlson.

But an environmental group says it goes against what schools should be doing to promote sustainability.

“The whole electric vehicle is very new in Hawaii. We should be doing everything possible to encourage it,” said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land. “One way of doing that is to have electric-vehicle stations with free electricity on campuses as part of the whole changeover about how schools address electricity.”

As far as the other schools with EV chargers, the DOE says only Kaimuki Middle School is next to a park, so the others can be closed off after school hours.

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