© 2024 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Downtown Honolulu preschool gets another extension. City eyes potential sites for relocation

After 36 years, Seagull Schools' Early Education Center in Downtown Honolulu will be closing its doors in August. Earlier this month, the city notified the school that it would not renew its lease. The city plans to repair the municipal parking lot underneath the school.
Casey Harlow / HPR
Seagull Schools' Early Education Center in downtown Honolulu.

In January, the City and County of Honolulu notified Seagull Schools that the lease for its Early Education Center would not be renewed. That meant the school would have to vacate the site next to the Frank Fasi Municipal Building by the end of June.

The preschool has been at that location since 1986 — looking after the children of city employees and other parents who work in downtown Honolulu.

The city said critical structural repairs, that have been delayed for years, were needed to the parking structure below the school.

In March, Mayor Rick Blangiardi extended the center's lease until the end of August 2022, saying the city was taking an active role in helping the school to relocate.

Now, the center's lease has been extended again — until August 2023.

"We're gonna go another year," said Blangiardi, during a press conference Tuesday morning. "In the interim, we're going to increase our inspections to make sure everything goes well, continue on our planning, and then we hope to be able to relocate Seagull Schools here on our grounds and this campus."

Blangiardi says the extension will help minimize the disruption to the center's operations during the school year, which ends on July 31. He also stated he expects city inspectors to monitor the condition of the parking lot structure, and keep him and Managing Director Michael Formby informed.

About 220 students attend the early learning center now, but it can accommodate up to 260 children — making it one of the largest early childhood providers in the state.

Blangiardi acknowledged the center's importance in the community, and reaffirmed his administration's commitment to finding a suitable temporary location for the school.

Seagull Schools CEO Megan McCorriston says she is relieved the school has more time to find another location, and continue serving current students and their families. Looking ahead, she tells HPR that the school is aiming to provide the same quality of education and care prior to and during its time at a new temporary location.

"We know it's a lot of change and upheaval for just a few years," McCorriston said. "But we understand the city has to do the repairs to the parking lot below. We understand that's been coming for a while."

"So in a way, we're doing as much as we can to prepare for that inevitability. And to give parents who are enrolled in our school ... a new location for them to go uninterrupted, while we work on returning to our original location," she said.

However, after repairs to the structure are completed, Seagull Schools will have to submit a bid to the city in order to operate at the new preschool center. McCorriston says she is hopeful the school will continue to serve on the campus — as it has for 36 years.

Blangiardi anticipates the repair project will take two-and-a-half years.

In the meantime, McCorriston tells HPR she doesn't anticipate the move to the temporary site will impact enrollment or the school's wait list.

The Blangiardi administration also announced on Tuesday that Ted Burke will be its new early education resource coordinator under the Department of Community Services. Burke is tasked with assisting the administration's efforts to expand early education opportunities for Oʻahu families. He'll also help find a new location for the early education center.

Burke tells HPR there are specific state requirements a preschool must have in order to operate, and he is keeping that in mind.

"We definitely want to make sure that the sites meet all the requirements, both at the Department of Health level and the DHS level," he said.

"The majority of sites, like this, serve food. So there's a whole Health Department component level, as well as the licensing component with the Department of Human Services. So I think we're looking at all opportunities that are out there and available."

Community Services Director Anton Krucky told HPR the city has so far looked at six to seven possible sites for the early education center to relocate. But added Managing Director Formby is heavily involved in finding possible locations.

During the Tuesday morning press conference, Formby mentioned one possible site is the Mission Memorial Building and the city's Reference Library — both located next to Honolulu Hale.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Related Stories