Building the future, Solomon Elementary gets fresh start

| July 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Kahu Kaleo Patterson performs a traditional Hawaiian blessing before the groundbreaking ceremony at Solomon Elementary School on July 6. To his left is Solomon Elementary School Principal Sally Omalza. (Photo by Derek Inoshita, Hawaii State Department of Education)


Karen A. Iwamoto

Staff Writer
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Army leaders joined state and federal officials to begin the next chapter of Solomon Elementary School at a groundbreaking ceremony for the school’s new $90 million campus, here.

“This (new) facility will truly be state of the art,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at the July 6 ceremony. “It gives (students) the opportunity … to get the skills they need to succeed and thrive in the next century.”

Solomon Elementary School artist rendering.

Pulling together
In April, the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment approved a $70 million federal grant to construct the new Solomon Elementary School campus, which will be built adjacent to the existing school. The Hawaii State Department of Education contributed $20 million in matching funds.

“Solomon is a shining example of how partnership between the state and the U.S. Army can benefit local communities,” Col. Stephen Dawson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, said.

Solomon Elementary School Principal Sally Omalza also acknowledged the teamwork that made the groundbreaking possible.

“I want to take this moment to thank the U.S. government for remembering the families that rotate through Schofield Barracks, and for providing our students, families and teachers a chance for round two of 1st Sgt. Samuel K. Solomon Elementary School,” she said, adding that family of Sgt. Solomon on the mainland and on the Big Island were unable to attend the ceremony, but were excited about the progress of the new campus.

Learning into the future
HIDOE Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said the improvements go beyond the scope of most projects.

“The renovation plan here goes far beyond the standard types of improvements normally scheduled,” he said.

“The plan will give the campus an entirely new footprint and create four state-of-the-art buildings that will create an array of opportunities for our kindergarteners through fifth graders in support of our military students,” he continued.

Col. Stephen E. Dawson was joined by members of the Hawaii Congressional delegation for the ceremony.

“These early grades are where our students learn to be effective communicators and self-directed learners, and these new classrooms will support our students in developing complex thinking and problem-solving skills that spark a passion for learning.”

The new campus will include 63 new classrooms, a student support center, a computer lab, a video production room, a covered play area, a cafeteria and administrative support offices. The plans also include new pickup and drop-off areas and about 170 parking stalls.

Students will attend school at the current campus while the new one is being built. The construction will take place in four phases that will culminate in the razing of the current school to create a new play area. Officials expect students to begin using the new classrooms in the fall of 2019 and construction to be completed by the summer of 2021.

A solid foundation
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said the groundbreaking is the foundation of a strong future for Hawaii’s military children.

“Everyone here remembers their elementary school, the teachers we had, the friends we made, the things that we learned,” he said. “They become the foundation for the rest of your life, and so it’s really important that every student in Hawaii have a strong foundation that they can build a future with.

“This means engaging teachers, a supportive community, access to technology and a strong curriculum. And in 2017 it also means having a 21st century facility,” he continued. “That is what today is all about – investing in this new structure, this new campus. We’re investing in all of these kids.”

He said he and the rest of Hawaii’s congressional delegation would continue to work to secure funding for other military schools in the state that are in need of improvements.

Commitment to families
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said the new school is a demonstration of the commitment Congress has to supporting the families of U.S. service members.

“It was (in) 2011 (that) Congress said, ‘Look, we all say we are invested in the military, the men and women in uniform who serve us, but it’s the families that are the backbone; it’s the wives and husbands and children that take the brunt of the burden, the brunt of the sacrifice,’” she said, explaining that Congress then created a list of schools that serve the military to determine which ones would qualify for federal grants to fund improvements.

Solomon Elementary School

Solomon Elementary School ranked 28th on the list of more than 100 schools. Originally built in 1969, it serves more than 900 students a year.

It is one of two schools on Schofield Barracks. The other school, Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School, had ranked ninth on the list of military schools most in need of physical improvements. It received an approximately $27 million grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment with approximately $7 million in matching funds from the HIDOE, and renovations there were completed in 2016.

“The military is part of us; they have been a part of our community for a long time,” Hanabusa said. “We are going to make sure they have the best environment so that when their parents are off serving us and ensuring our freedoms, they don’t have to worry that their kids are in less than perfect situations. They will know their kids are getting the best education the state of Hawaii can offer them.”

Image courtesy of Solomon Elementary School
Sgt. Samuel K. Solomon

School History
Solomon Elementary School is named for 1st Sgt. Samuel K. Solomon, who was from Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii. He was a Soldier in the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment (Wolfhounds), and earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for the courage he demonstrated during the Vietnam War.

He was shot and killed in action while carrying wounded Soldiers to safety on Nov. 3, 1966, in Dau Tieng, Vietnam.

The school was officially designated in his name on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1969.

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Category: Community, Education

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