Dear Kapālama ‘Ohana,
After much discussion and investigation regarding the murals located on the walls of the Keli‘imaika‘i Learning Center at the middle school, a final decision has been made regarding our next steps. I wanted to explain this decision to you. I will also share this decision with interested alumni who have contributed to the discussion regarding the murals.
As you know, we have been working diligently on the preservation and restoration of the murals. As pointed out early in our conversations, the murals are a part of the history of our middle school and are remembered with great fondness, especially among those directly and indirectly involved in creating these beautiful art pieces. We wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.
As you may be aware, we contracted a private firm to remove and save the murals prior to demolition of the buildings. However, one of the requirements of this demolition process is to test for hazardous materials. This investigation unfortunately discovered asbestos in the grout surrounding the tiles. Department of Health and federal standards consider the grout and mosaic tile to be inseparable resulting in a requirement that all three of the entire mural systems be treated and handled as an asbestos containing material (ACM).
Given these findings, we have concluded that preservation and restoration of these murals would be unsafe, cost prohibitive and impractical. Even if we were to complete all necessary steps required to safely handle this ACM, we could not install the murals in a school setting because of its ongoing hazardous characteristics. I know this may sound contradictory because the murals have been in place for almost fifty years at the middle school. Nonetheless, once disturbed, the murals become active agents leaving few options for preservation and restoration.
Beyond these safety concerns are cost considerations. We have received estimates that place remediation and removal costs in the order of six figures. The limited options for restoration of the murals coupled with its high costs lead us to the conclusion that preserving these pieces is no longer practical. For that reason we have decided not to proceed with preserving and restoring the murals for future display.
Please know that we share in the disappointment of this decision and regret that all of our efforts could not have led us to a different conclusion. Be assured that all of the murals have been professionally photographed to be placed in our archives with the appropriate documentation describing the wonderful and rich history to these beautiful works of arts created by our haumana many years ago. All those involved appreciate the enthusiasm and heartfelt commitment you and others have exhibited toward the restoration of these beautiful murals. Mahalo for those of you who shared your mana’o and precious time in assisting us as we studied this matter.
Me ke aloha pumehana,
Dr. Michael Chun
President & Headmaster, Kamehameha Schools Kapālama