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Hawaii Island Preschool That Closed Amid Costly Dispute With State Finds a New Home

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The head of a Hawaii Island preschool that shut down in February amid a contentious dispute with the state says she’s signed a lease at a new location.

She hopes to reopen in the next few months.

With the new location nailed down, school Executive Director Kim Pierce says she’ll be ready to submit an application for a state license in the next couple weeks.

An exact date for when the school could reopen hasn’t been set.

But she says the goal is to have keiki back in the classroom in sometime in the next six months.

“Our families, our staff, our class materials have basically all been in standby mode as we have looked for a new campus,” she said.

After vetting more than a dozen sites, Pierce confirms a single story hale off on Mohouli Street in Hilo will be the new home of Kalamapii Playschool.

It’s located about a mile and a half from the previous campus.

“It’s about as turnkey as you can get,” Pierce said. “The location used to be a pediatrician’s office. It’s a fairly new building, it has been kept in immaculate shape.”

Finding the right property is a critical part of the licensing process.

And a big part of why the state never issued the preschool a license at its previous location.

Although Pierce spent tens of thousands of dollars to remediate lead issues on the campus, the state wasn’t convinced the school was safe.

Pierce says she made the decision to close in February because she couldn’t continue pouring money into the property with no guarantee of a license.

Meanwhile, the need for early childhood education on Hawaii Island has never been higher.

Pierce said only about 15% of Kalamapii’s 44 students were able to find another school, halting formal learning for dozens of keiki and forcing some families to make difficult decisions.

“There’s parents who have left a job or gone to part time,” Pierce said.

In a statement, the Department of Human Services said:

“We are happy to hear that they have found a new location, and will work with Ms. Pierce to make the licensing process go as smoothly as possible. We fully expect that they will likewise cooperate with DHS to make sure that all the necessary things, including a license, are in place before services begin.”

A license is just one component of what Pierce says she needs to re-open.

The school also has to raise $50,000.

“We need to do it by Halloween,” she said. “That’s going to make it so we can cover costs and deal with the expenses to ensure we have everything that we need for kids to be on campus and start school ideally within the next six months.”

Source : HawaiiNewsNow