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Plans for WMS STEM building take a step forward with funding approval

Rep. Cindy Evans and Matt Horne, principal of Waimea Middle School, discuss the plans for the school’s future STEM building at the school on March 16. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Rep. Cindy Evans and Matt Horne, principal of Waimea Middle School, discuss the plans for the school’s future STEM building at the school on March 16. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)

On March 12, the House unanimously passed approval for $9.8 million in Capital Improvement Funds to go toward the nine-classroom science and technology building for Waimea Middle School included in House Bill 1700, House Draft 1, proposed by Rep. Cindy Evans.

The $9.89M appropriation would be combined with $5 million in Capital Improvement Project funds authorized by the 2013 Legislature to construct the building. The bill now goes to the Senate for approval, then to the governor.

“This will be a game changer for the community,” said Rep. Evans said of the future WMS science and technology building during a visit to the school with Principal Matt Horne on March 16.

There are more than 285 sixth through eighth graders at Waimea Middle School. The school has been working with the Department of Education on the science-technology building since 2003. The Legislature authorized $1million for planning, design, and engineering in 2007, which is separate from the $5 million CIP funding for the project secured by Sen. Malama Solomon and Rep. Cindy Evans in 2013.

“This has been many, many years coming to fruition,” Evans said. “It has been a journey getting them a facility that supports the curriculum. Because if you don’t have the right tools, then how are you going to teach them and prepare them for learning?”

Evans said she thinks it’s important to educate students from K-12, but that the middle school years are critical to their future.

“It is all about school readiness,” Evans said. “Next they are going to go into high school.”

She said that an emphasis in STEM in middle school is an emphasis in “growing the next generation.”

“The workforce is demanding it,” she said. “It will help them with jobs.”

Over the summer, representatives from the House Finance Committee visited the school, including Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman. Members of the Senate also visited.

“It has been 20 plus years since there has been an investment in educational infrastructure in Waimea. It is time,” WMS Principal Matt Horne told the visiting House Finance members. “It is time that we show our kids and our community that we value their education and that we give them the hope for what they can become in the 21st century. This is preparing kids for 21st century learning.”

WMS and the Department of Education are asking to include photovoltaic installation for the science-technology building. Horne said the photovoltaic would help reduce their annual $50,000 electricity bill.

Funding requests include classroom furnishings, technology for classroom use and a paved entry drive. In the plans are an outdoor amphitheater-style classroom that leads to the Mala’ai Culinary Garden for integrated indoor and outdoor science.

According to Horne, the design will help integrate the STEM classroom learning with agriculture.

For more information or to email support, visit www.capitol.hawaii.gov and search for HB1700 HD1.