The wind-driven wildfires that devastated Maui left elementary students in the historic town of Lahaina without an elementary school.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers went into action after receiving a mission assignment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sept. 13 to design and oversee the installation of modular buildings for the temporary elementary school in Lahaina.

"The temporary replacement campus for King Kamehameha III Elementary will be critical in providing our students and staff with a sense of normalcy and a solid foundation for learning and recovery," said Hawai’i State Department of Education Superintendent Keith Hayashi.

In support of the State of Hawai‘i and the state Department of Education, USACE is providing technical assistance, engineering expertise and construction management for the construction of the temporary campus for students of King Kamehameha III elementary school who were displaced by the wildfires that damaged and rendered the school unusable.

A team of USACE and local leaders meet in the Napili-Honokowai area of Maui Aug. 31 to assess a site for possible use as a temporary school. A school is needed for approximately 700 elementary school students who lost their school to the Hawaii wildfires. Members of the USACE Critical Public Facilities team look over a conceptual layout Aug. 31 while conducting a site assessment on Maui to assist the State of Hawai'i in planning for a temporary school following the wildfires in Lahaina that occurred Aug. 8. (U.S. Army photo by Joseph Paul Bruton)

“This has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding projects I have ever worked on,” said Elizabeth McCarty, mission manager, USACE Critical Public Facilities Team. “As a former teacher, this mission immediately tugged on my heartstrings.”

One of the first steps was to obtain a contractor who could complete the work within the project parameters. A request for proposal was sent out Oct. 16. USACE organized a site visit with contractors and their sub-contractors to review the site Oct. 22. Proposals were received Oct. 26 and were evaluated for the lowest price technically acceptable offer.

Pono Aina Management, LLC, an 8(a) Native Hawaiian Organization, based out of Waianae, Hawai'i, was awarded a base contract of $53.7 million on Nov. 4 to construct a temporary elementary school campus in Lahaina and was given a Notice to Proceed on Nov. 20.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Recovery Field Office Commander Col. Jess Curry from the Rock Island District and USACE Hawai‘i Wildfires Critical Public Facilities Mission Manager Elizabeth McCarty from the Galveston District address members of the Hawai‘i Finance Committee Oct. 26 regarding USACE plans for construction of a temporary school campus in the Lahaina community. The campus will serve as an interim replacement following the loss of the King Kamehameha III Elementary School in the Aug. 8 wildfires. COURTESY PHOTO

“Knowing that many of the men and women working on this project were directly impacted by the fires makes it even more special,” McCarty said. “I am very proud to stand next to my entire team, my new extended ohana, as the school rises.”

Pono Aina Management and their subcontractors, Goodfellow Brothers, Diversity Resources Group and Willscot immediately went to work. Clearing and grubbing of the site began the day the notice to proceed was issued and was completed Nov. 22. Cutting and grading, which began Nov. 21 is still being completed. Modular units were ordered and are being sent from Oahu, Washington and California with the first units anticipated on-site the first week of December.

"Responding to this crisis has been a collaborative effort with our federal, state, county and community partners,” Hayashi said. “We appreciate the experience and leadership that the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers brings as they guide and oversee construction of this temporary school to serve our Lāhainā community.”

USACE Galveston District is responsible for contract management and project oversite with support from emergency personnel from multiple districts across the globe.

The handover of the temporary school to the Department of Education for furnishing and installation of telecommunication equipment is anticipated to be by the end of February 2024.

“My USACE teammates, the County of Maui personnel, the Department of Education and the contractors all work so well together,” said McCarty.  “Learning more about the people of Maui and thU.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors prepare a site for construction of a new temporary elementary school campus for the Lahaina, Hawai'ieir culture is something that I will take with me forever.”

people survey land

Shelter is a basic human need that is crucial for survival. Providing shelter for victims after disasters helps to establish a sense of normalcy for the individuals and communities who have been affected.

Providing temporary housing involves a coordinated effort by various organizations to provide safe and secure accommodations for people who have been displaced.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received a $1.9 million Federal Emergency Management Agency mission assignment Oct. 28 to provide conceptual design for temporary housing sites.

man with survey equipment
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, temporary housing, mission specialist, Anne Wurtenberger and mission manager Jeffery Mucclick visit with surveyor Stephen Caldwell (pictured here) at a proposed temporary housing site map. (U.S. Army photo by Brigida I. Sanchez)

Once a design is approved, USACE will prepare the sites for FEMA to install the units. The units will house those displaced by the Aug. 8 wildfires that destroyed more than 2,000 properties on Maui.

Working alongside FEMA, USACE will prepare pads, provide plans, specifications, and construction management activities associated with the emergency temporary housing mission.

There are currently six temporary housing planning response teams throughout USACE district offices in Huntington, West Virginia; Los Angeles, California; New York, New York; Jacksonville, Florida; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Huntsville, Alabama.

Each team is comprised of a management and support element with the management element deploying in advance, and the support element following as the mission develops.

viewing survey map on device
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, temporary housing mission specialist Anne Wurtenberger, looks at a proposed site map. (U.S. Army photo by Brigida I. Sanchez)

The 10-person team managing the mission on Maui is made up of USACE employees from both the St. Paul and Huntington districts. The team consists of engineers, surveyors and mission specialists.

USACE Temporary Housing Mission Manager, Jeff McCullick said, “Housing missions involve a myriad of moving pieces. Site assessments need to be done, then there’s zoning and utility needs.”

Temporary housing is a normal mission assignment for USACE. However, no two disasters are ever the same.

“The mission on Maui is unique in that USACE is not doing the installation of the units,” said McCullick. “We are preparing the pads with utilities so FEMA can procure and install the units.”

McCullick said the group is one week into the process but gaining momentum. “Although we are still in the initial stages, the team has hit the ground running and are working with FEMA to get people into homes as soon as possible,” he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $53.7 million base contract Nov. 3, to Pono Aina Management, LLC, an 8(a) Native Hawaiian Organization, based out of Waianae, Hawai'i, to construct a temporary elementary school campus in Lahaina. The temporary school will accommodate those students displaced from the King Kamehameha III Elementary School that was damaged and rendered unusable by the Aug. 8 wildfires in Maui County.  

As part of the USACE Critical Public Facilities mission assigned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support Hawai'i and the state Department of Education, USACE was tasked to design and oversee the installation of modular buildings for the temporary elementary school campus for the Lahaina community. The Galveston District will be responsible for contract management and project oversite.

"The children of Lahaina have gone through a heartbreaking trauma, and the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Defense and our partners can now help the state bring back a bit of normalcy to these young lives," said Col. Jess Curry, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Recovery Field Office commander. "This school may be temporary but will stand as a reminder that despite the grief and loss, Lahaina’s children will have a space to continue to learn, to dream and to thrive. We are proud to be here for them in this moment.”  

For information on the Hawaii Wildfire Response or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visit

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