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Wednesday, October 01, 2014         

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Liliuokalani backers appeal for its survival

By Mary Vorsino

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Closing Queen Liliuokalani Elementary is no way to celebrate the school's 100th anniversary next year, said parents, teachers and others who turned out for a hearing on a consolidation proposal last night.

About 80 parents, teachers, students and community members gathered to oppose the closure, and many asked for more time -- to attract more students or get a chance to reinvent the campus.

"Why can't it stay open and we think out of the box?" said Susan Mizokami, a part-time teacher at the school. "There's a lot going for it."

She added, "To stay open we need to embrace change."

Devon Peterson, whose son attends first grade at the school, said instead of trying to close Liliuokalani, the state should be searching for ways to keep it open, boost enrollment and improve performance.

She added that the state has not given the school a chance to thrive.

The Kaimuki campus has had nine principals in 10 years, she said.

It has been "systematically starved of leadership," Peterson said.

UPCOMING CONSOLIDATION HEARINGS

KAISER COMPLEX
» When: Tomorrow, 6:30 p.m.
» Where: Kaiser High School cafeteria
» Schools being considered for closure: Kamiloiki or Koko Head elementary school

FARRINGTON COMPLEX
» When: Thursday, 5:30 p.m.
» Where: Kalakaua Middle School cafeteria
» Schools being considered for closure: Kalihi and Puuhale elementary schools

For more information: Go to hawaiidoe.org and click on "School Consolidation Studies" or call the DOE's Honolulu district office at 733-4952.

Liliuokalani, with 104 students, is the only school in the Kalani complex being considered for closure. A consolidation study proposed moving students to Waialae and Liholiho elementary schools.

Class sizes at Liliuokalani range from six to 22 children, and the preschool has just three kids. There are 11 teachers at the campus.

The state says closing the school would save about $370,000 a year.

The public hearing is the first of three this week on proposed consolidations in East and urban Honolulu. Also being considered for closure are either Kamiloiki or Koko Head elementary schools in Hawaii Kai and both Kalihi and Puuhale elementary schools in the urban core.

Testimony given at the hearing yesterday, held in the cafeteria at Kalani High School, will be presented to Board of Education members along with a recommendation from the Department of Education.

The DOE has pledged to consider consolidating the state's smallest schools as a way to slash costs. But so far, only Wailupe Valley in East Honolulu and the one-room schoolhouse at Keanae, Maui, have closed.

Spared were Haleiwa and Kaaawa elementary schools on the North Shore, Maunaloa Elementary on Molokai and Kohala Middle on the Big Island, all of which the DOE recommended not to close after backlash from parents. The board voted later against closing the campuses.

At the hearing last night, several parents took issue with the department's decision to target small schools where students can get more individualized attention. They also said talk of consolidation has prompted parents and volunteers to get more involved than ever, and many are brainstorming ways that the school could remain open.

Karen Tsukiyama, a former principal at Liliuokalani, said at the hearing that Liliuokalani could become a "unique research school" with the right planning and help. "Queen Liliuokalani School should be kept forever as a place for community and a place for learning," she said.

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise) also attended the hearing yesterday and said the school is a "fixture and a place of pride and good memories."

"Liliuokalani is truly a neighborhood school of the type the state should promote," Say said, adding that his "Christmas wish" is that the school is not closed. That got him a big round of applause.






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