'Ewa Makai Middle School to be Hawaii's first 'green' campus
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Education Writer
When students begin attending 'Ewa Makai Middle School in January, they will study in the air-conditioned comfort of the Hawai'i public school system's first completely certified "green" campus and with such high-tech tools as iPad tablet computers.
"We're going to be opening with state-of-the-art technology," said principal Edward Oshiro.
"If we want to meet the demands of the 21st century learners, one of the best ways is to give them technology that is on the cutting edge," he said.
Construction of 'Ewa Makai Middle will likely be completed in September as expected, but its staff and students will be temporarily housed at 'Ilima Intermediate until the end of December, education officials said.
The $61 million campus west of Fort Weaver Road in 'Ewa is expected to relieve years of severe overcrowding at 'Ilima Intermediate once all students have been moved to the new campus by the beginning of the second semester of next year.
Ground was broken on the project last July.
Preparation to open the new school is under way, with Oshiro having already hired some 30 teachers, including about a dozen who will be transferring from 'Ilima. Oshiro is also working with some of the newly hired teachers on curriculum planning, purchasing of equipment and supplies and planning the school's vision and philosophy.
Oshiro said the school has about $2 million set aside for startup expenses, including textbooks, classroom supplies and technology.
Each classroom will feature electronic SmartBoards — interactive white boards.
The school has a goal of a one-to-one student-to-computer ratio, but that's down the road, Oshiro said.
For now, the school is likely to invest in iPads, Apple's hybrid between its iPhone and its laptop computers, which retail for about $499. But Oshiro said the school hopes to create a partnership with Apple or some other technology company to get computers or other hardware at discount prices.
'Ewa Makai will have full computer labs with iPads and moble iPad labs that will rotate through the classrooms.
Sandy Goya, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said high technology in the classroom is not unusual. Some schools have been working toward one-to-one computer ratios, making use of laptop computer labs that rotate through classrooms and SmartBoards.
She said school principals and school community councils have the authority to make their own decisions on how to spend their money. Many schools have been working toward high-technology environments, she said.
"Many schools have smartboards. IPads are relatively new. But the end goal for all schools is to make sure the schools and teachers have the tools to help their students become technology savvy," Goya said.
'Ewa Makai's campus will be physically unique compared with other public schools in the state. It is the first school in Hawai'i being built as one enclosed building, as opposed to traditional school campuses in the state made up of several buildings linked by open-air walkways.
Part of the reason for the new design is to meet "green" building requirements, or to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified, as is now required for all new state facilities.
It will be the first entire school campus to be so designated.
As a LEED Silver Project, the school is fitted with air conditioning and natural day lighting design for energy conservation. Contractors are also using recycled "green" materials in construction. A special storm water runoff collection system will be installed, as will occupancy sensors in rooms to control lighting and plumbing fixtures.
Currently 'Ilima Intermediate is the only junior high school serving the entire 'Ewa area, and its enrollment is far beyond capacity with about 1,350 students. At the end of the 2009 school year, the school was 14 classrooms short to accommodate its student population, according to DOE data.
Officials say the overcrowding at 'Ilima Intermediate has been so severe that school administrators had asked Kapolei Middle School to accept some of its students until 'Ewa Makai is complete.
Of the seven elementary schools in 'Ewa, three will be considered feeder schools to the new 'Ewa Makai campus — Keoneula Elementary, 'Ewa Elementary and 'Ewa Beach Elementary. In other words, residents living west of Fort Weaver Road will send their students to the new school, while those living east of Fort Weaver will continue to send their children to 'Ilima Intermediate.
"That decision was made because the west side of Fort Weaver is still growing in terms of home construction," Oshiro said. The boundary "provides room for growth for the new school instead of opening up overcrowded," he said.
Until the school benefits from the growth of residential homes in the area, 'Ewa Makai will consider applications for "geographic exceptions" from families that do not live in the district but are interested in sending their child to the school.
The new campus will be able to accommodate about 700 students. Education officials had asked lawmakers for an additional $16.4 million to complete a third wing of the school building, which would have boosted the school's capacity, said Nick Nichols, DOE facilities planner. That money was not appropriated this session.