KILAUEA — The Kaua‘i County Planning Commission unanimously approved the Namahana School Special Use Permit application at its Tuesday, Dec. 12, meeting.
“This is a huge win for our North Shore families, keiki, and community,” said Namahana Education Foundation Executive Director Melanie Parker said.
“The Special Use Permit (SUP) grants permission for the school to develop its campus on the 11.3 acres of agriculturally zoned land adjacent to Kilauea town. Now that we have received our SUP, we can focus on the concrete tasks of planning and permitting for our first phase of construction.”
The foundation is also raising funds to meet a $500,000 match gift that will support Phase I of the development.
“The outpouring of support for our SUP application was just incredible,” said Namahana School Leader Dr. Kapua Chandler. “As they have done since the beginning of our school story, the North Shore ‘ohana came together to raise a collective voice for the future of our keiki.”
The school site sits along the future main access road to Kilauea from Kuhio Highway; it was purchased by the foundation in August with support of a fundraising campaign that involved strong community participation.
The SUP will allow the school to carry out educational activity while preserving the rural characteristics established by the Hawai‘i zoning code. This is a necessary first step for obtaining construction permits.
During the process leading to the SUP approval, 60 individuals submitted either oral or written testimony in favor of the school’s application. This included representatives of 26 local community organizations and businesses, as well as elected officials and residents from other parts of the island.
Much of the testimonies emphasized the acute need for a middle and high school closer to home that would eliminate the lengthy commute most North Shore children undertake following sixth grade.
“The children who are commuting to Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a from the North Shore are spending a significant portion of their lives in traffic. I coach North Shore students who have to wake up at 4 a.m. to make it on time to our regular workouts before school in Lihu‘e,” said Rep. Luke Evslin in a letter.
“This lengthy commute has been compounded over the last few years due to a statewide shortage of bus drivers. Even in the best of circumstances, the commute takes away from time with their families, and time that could be used for studying or extra-curricular activities. It also contributes to congestion on our overburdened infrastructure.”
Many people highlighted the benefits that Namahana’s unique educational vision will bring to the community, some noting that the school’s ‘aina-based curriculum designed to foster environmental awareness and stewardship is well-aligned with the area’s agriculture heritage.
“Namahana School’s focus on agriculture and sustainability is consistent with our North Shore communities,” said Yoshito L’Hote, president of the Kilauea Neighborhood Association and executive director of the Kilauea Community Agricultural Center that recently celebrated the opening of Johnny’s Market.
“For many years, Kilauea was a center of agriculture on Kaua‘i, and that legacy is still evident in the number of small farms across the North Shore. We are very excited about the potential to have an ‘aina-based school where we’re developing more direct connection to the land and creating pathways to make viable jobs, not just in agriculture, but in the environmental, social and cultural needs of our community.”
Namahana Education Foundation plans to break ground at its new site in the summer of 2024 with temporary facilities ready to welcome an initial cohort of students in grades 7 and 8 in fall of 2025.
Source: The Garden Island