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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 24, 2004

School repair plan in works

Advertiser Staff and Wire Services

After the governor's decision to accelerate the transfer of authority for school repair and maintenance, Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said the Department of Education is working on a plan to repair Hawai'i's public schools.

The department's Office of Business Services has already "formulated a delivery plan to get the work done and continue servicing our schools," Hamamoto said.

Gov. Linda Lingle on Nov. 17 announced that half of the $100 million in school repair and maintenance projects under management of the Department of Accounting and General Services were to be immediately transferred to the Department of Education. The other half will be managed by DAGS until the DOE assumes full responsibility next July 1, as provided by the Reinventing Education Act of 2004.

"This new arrangement will allow the DOE to move forward on ensuring our schools are kept in good repair and will provide accountability to the public," Lingle said.

The transfer of repair and maintenance authority "will give us the autonomy we have been seeking," which is necessary to hold the DOE accountable, Hamamoto said in a statement yesterday.

"I appreciate the governor's foresight in acknowledging the upcoming changes and giving us this opportunity to make a difference in our schools."

The aging infrastructure at public schools — and the slow pace of school repairs — has been a long-standing concern. DAGS estimated at one point that the repair backlog was as high as $800 million and the DOE said as late as last summer that the backlog was $600 million.

Rae Loui, assistant superintendent at the DOE's Office of Business Services, said last week that progress had been made, both in completing repairs and in more accurately documenting the work that still needs to be done, and put the backlog at $460 million.

The DOE and DAGS are continuing negotiations on the transfer to the education department of more than 300 employees who are involved with school repair and maintenance and capital improvement projects, Hamamoto's statement said. The transfer will take place on July 1.

In the past, the Department of Education set a priority list of projects, requested money from the Department of Budget and Finance and then worked with the DAGS to execute the projects. Under the new law, the DOE is responsible for soliciting contractors and for monitoring their work.