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Group hoping to open new charter school in Orchid Land

A Puna nonprofit hopes to build a new elementary charter school in Orchid Land Estates within the next two years.

At an October meeting of the Windward Planning Commission, the Arts and Sciences Center of Puna will submit an application for a special permit to build an elementary campus that can support approximately 300 students on a 2.3-acre plot of land in Orchid Land.

The proposed school, which would be located at 16-1678 34th Ave., is intended to be complete by Aug. 1, 2023.

“The buildings are already there,” said Steve Hirakami, director of the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science. “They’re ready to be used. All we need are the walls.”

Hirakami said the two buildings on-site are about 6,000 square feet each and were previously zoned as a shopping center and restaurant, but have been unused for several years.

The elementary will be complementary to the Academy of Arts and Science in Pahoa, which serves students between grades seven and 12, but Hirakami said the Arts and Sciences Center chose to put the elementary elsewhere to alleviate traffic and water concerns.

Traffic studies have been conducted at the Orchid Land site, and Hirakami said the local community supports the development.

“A subdivision the size of Hawaiian Paradise Park or something on the mainland would have a whole commerce center, and it would have services like this,” Hirakami said. “People out here have to drive miles to get to services like schools. So the idea of putting schools in these subdivisions just makes sense.”

The matter was planned to go before the Windward Planning Commission next week, but Hirakami said it was delayed in order to correct certain errors in the application and provide proper notifications to neighbors.

“We want to get this done right the first time,” Hirakami said. “If you get rejected by the commission the first time, it’s harder to get approval the second time. We want to get this done as soon as possible.”

If the commission approves the special permit at October’s meeting, Hirakami said construction on the school could begin within a few months.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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