Big Island Charter School Gets Makeover With Public Money

Aug 12, 2019

Hawaii Island has more public charter schools than any other island in the state. Most charter schools do not get funding from the state for physical facilities. But as the new school year gets underway, students and faculty at one Big Island charter school are looking forward to getting brand new facilities. And in this case, those are paid for by the state.

The Volcano School of Arts and Sciences public charter school serves 215 students at two campuses in Volcano Village. State Rep. Richard Onishi was instrumental in securing $12 million dollars in state funding to construct new facilities. He says the first project helped the school and the Volcano community.

“We helped them secure $450 thousand for a certified kitchen for the community, the school would be able to rent out, to make value added products, and earn some income. It was a win for the Volcano community as well as the school.”

Volcano School of Arts and Sciences Principal Kalima Kinney says the school has been in operation since 1915 – the only school in the 40 miles between Mountain View and Pahala. She talks about the new facilities, designed by the late Volcano architect Boone Morrrison.

“It has 16 classroom spaces, including a preschool building, and a single story elementary with breakout spaces and gardens, and a two story upper el and middle school building with one of our two STEAM labs, a multipurpose building, administration building, and then of course our commercial kitchen. We’ll be retaining the existing schoolhouse and utilizing that for our arts and culture classes. That was the schoolhouse for this area from 1933 to 1973.”

Onishi says he got state funding because the land is Department of Education property. Funding will be in the DOE capital improvement budget.

“The original cost was $15 million dollars. I wanted the school to have a buy in.  We asked them if they would put up a dollar for every $4 dollars the state put up. We got $12 million dollars, they need to come up with $3 million dollars, and they’re on their way.”

Onishi says the school is getting building permits now, and working to raise the additional 3 million dollars in a community outreach effort.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Richard Onishi as a senator. He is a state representative. HPR regrets the error.