Fire code issues keep school auditorium largely idle despite $15 million upgrade

Eight months after its grand opening, a $15 million school auditorium is only available for limited use.

Teachers reached out to us via Report It wanting to know why.

Kawananakoa Middle School held a big concert in February to celebrate its 90th anniversary and the opening of its newly renovated Princess Kawananakoa Auditorium.

Hundreds checked out the state-of-the-art upgrades.

Eight months later, the doors remain closed.

“I want clarification. I understand it doesn’t meet fire code,” said sixth-grade health teacher Gary Tani.

We checked with the Honolulu Fire Department and learned the auditorium failed a fire alarm system test in April 2017 due to audibility issues and other requirements not being met.

“If it was not in compliance with the fire codes, why were we using it?” asked Tani.

“This project is almost $20 million. There shouldn’t be any mistakes. We lobbied the legislature for money and this is taxpayer money. I speak as a taxpayer as well. Things need to be done correctly,” said orchestra instructor Danny Mew.

Kawananakoa Middle School’s principal, Ann Sugibayashi, was off island this week, and could not be reached for comment.

The DOE confirmed the auditorium’s fire monitor is in the process of being installed and expects it will completed by next month.

When asked why it’s taken eight months to bring the auditorium up to fire code, the spokesperson explained the process can take a few months for the DOE to negotiate with the contractor, and “this particular system is one of the first that required research and development.”

The DOE added “the school is in contact with HFD. It is able to use the auditorium on a limited basis.”

Once the fire monitor is installed, firefighters will need to reinspect the auditorium.

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