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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 8, 2001

School construction delayed after human bones found

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

NANAKULI — The state has updated its schedule for building the new Nanakuli IV Elementary School after finding human bones at the construction site last year and now hopes to begin work on the $23 million project in September.

The project, which is to build a replacement school for Nanaikapono Elementary, hit a snag in September when bones were found during an archaeological survey of the site.

State Department of Education facilities director Ray Minami said the new schedule is to put the project out to bid this month, select a contractor in August and begin construction in the fall. He hopes the new school can be completed by July 2003, a little more than a year later than originally planned.

"It may, realistically, go into December 2003, but we are hoping we can finish the school in time for the 2003 school year," Minami said. "If not, the school would have to move over during the second semester, which might be very inconvenient."

Nanaikapono, which has been on Hawaiian Home Lands property for more than 60 years, will be moved to state land directly mauka of Farrington Highway, across from the present school. The Department of Education lease expires in 2002. The Department of Education wants to replace Nanaikapono because the land leased from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands costs $479,000 a year, and that will increase to $599,000 in 2002.

Three other public schools — Keaukaha Elementary School in Hilo, Moloka'i High and Intermediate School, and Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School — are on Hawaiian Home Lands property and at some point may also need to be moved to state property, Minami said. The state isworking out a land exchange for those sites and does not pay a lease for their use, Minami said.

There are some other schools on land not owned by the state, but those are on federal property on military bases, according to the DOE.

Nanaikapono's lease situation is unique because it is on prime beachfront property that Hawaiian Home Lands plans to develop and therefore the group is asking fair market value for the land. Once that land is vacated, the department would like to transform the site into a Hawaiian gathering place, with educational programs and community facilities. Townscape Inc. is developing a master plan for the area.

Minami said the current construction plan for the new school is contingent upon approval of the DOE's request to have the bones removed from the site.

"We are waiting for Department of Land and Natural Resources to approve our recommendation to hopefully be given permission to relocate the remains," Minami said. "But it is still pending the community's input, the Burial Council's input and the decision to be made by DNLR. We are optimistic about it."

Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward said the state Burial Council will make a final decision to either move the remains or rebury them at the site. She said a public notice will be published in an attempt to locate any descendants in the area before a final decision is made.

In addition to the human remains, sinkholes discovered at the site must be dealt with during construction. Nanaikapono principal Myron Brumaghim said the DOE asked the Legislature for an additional $2.275 million for construction of the new school this year to cover those unexpected expenses. That money is included in the new state budget.