Kamehameha Schools officials don’t expect to complete the process just to get permission to demolish the Keauhou Beach Hotel until spring 2015.
Officials this week provided an update at two meetings to West Hawaii residents on their plans for the former hotel grounds, as well as improvements at Keauhou Bay and ongoing educational efforts for Kona and Kohala students.
“Our big priority is bringing down the hotel in a timely fashion,” Strategic Initiatives Director Kaeo Duarte said Thursday. “We don’t want another Kona Lagoon.”
Duarte referred to another hotel on Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estates property, near the recently shuttered Keauhou Beach Hotel, that closed and sat empty for nearly 18 years before officials decided to demolish it in 2004.
To demolish the hotel — a better word may be dismantle, because of the concerns about damaging the reef over which the hotel sits — Kamehameha Schools will need county, state and federal approval. They’ll also need to take care not to damage restored historical sites on the hotel property, officials said.
While officials pursue those permits and approvals, educational programs will continue on the Kahaluu makai property, as the area is now being called. Duarte said Kamehameha Schools has been working with community partners for years to provide educational programs, ranging from direct cultural instruction to using cultural practices and sites as a way to incorporate math and science lessons for students.
Duarte said the goal of this week’s community meetings, which more than 100 people attended, was to get feedback on how to incorporate the schools’ educational mission with its land management activities.
“We know where we want to head,” he said. “We don’t have all the details yet.”
One idea, he added, was to move away from the idea of fulfilling Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s vision for schools for Hawaiian children by just building traditional classrooms.
“How do we create a landscape of learning?” Duarte said officials are asking themselves. “Kamehameha Schools doesn’t have a campus in West Hawaii. We may not.”
But the organization does have thousands of acres of land in Kona and Kohala that can be used.
“The new, big novelty (in educational circles) is the extended, outdoor classroom,” Duarte said.
A framework for outdoor education already exists in West Hawaii. Students from a variety of West Hawaii schools have documented and mapped some of the many cultural and historical sites on the Kahaluu makai property, which was once a royal Hawaiian center, filled with heiau and other structures. The maps, lining one wall of a Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay convention center room during Thursday and Friday’s meetings, showcased the students’ professional quality work.
“How can West Hawaii be a place where Kamehameha Schools is exploring the evolution of our mission?” Duarte said.
At Keauhou Bay, Kamehameha Schools recently finished renovating Kaopa Pond, which Duarte said was the water where Kamehameha III was revived after being stillborn. Officials are also planning a new snack bar at the bay, called Akule Supply Co. In deference to neighbors’ concerns, the restaurant will not have amplified music, will open from sunrise to sunset and will direct patrons to park off-site, in some of the Sheraton’s overflow parking.