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Shuffle could save schools

A plan would boost enrollment at campuses short of students

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 11:29 p.m. HST, Jan 29, 2011

Rather than closing one of two small, high-performing schools in Hawaii Kai, the state Department of Education is looking at changing attendance areas to boost enrollment.

The proposal, expected to be presented to parents next week, would redraw boundaries that determine which school a student attends so that enrollment goes up at Koko Head and Kamiloiki elementary schools while Aina Haina Elementary School's population drops by about 150 students.

This is the first time in recent discussions of consolidating small schools that the department has considered shifting attendance areas to increase enrollment, and the idea is likely to be popular among parents who came out in force against consolidation.

"Parents are very pleased that at least they're looking at alternatives," said Win Schoneman, chairman of Kamiloiki's School Community Council. "We would like to have more students, but not a whole lot more. We're still on pins and needles about it."

The department considered either Kamiloiki or Koko Head for closing because of small enrollments, and the department says a consolidation could still move forward if the boundary-change proposal is rejected by parents or runs into any other big snags.


The state Department of Education is considering shifting the attendance area for Aina Haina Elementary to boost enrollment at Koko Head and Kamiloiki elementary schools. Here is what enrollment looks like now:


  Enrollment Capacity
Aina Haina 650 659
Hahaione 475 556
Kamiloiki 362 621
Koko Head 269 499

Source: Department of Education



» What: A presentation of proposed changes to the attendance area for Hawaii Kai elementary schools will be made at a Board of Education general meeting.

» When: 3:30 p.m. Thursday

» Where: Kamiloiki Elementary cafeteria

» For more information: Call 586-3349.


Changing attendance zones requires the go-ahead from Kaiser complex-area Superintendent Calvin Nomiyama, who said yesterday he plans to hold an informational meeting for parents in the next couple of weeks and will seek the support of the schools superintendent.

Nomiyama said he hopes the change can be made for next school year.

"The intent is to expedite this," he said.

Nomiyama stressed current students at all three Hawaii Kai schools would be "grandfathered in" so they would not have to switch campuses even if they are no longer in an attendance area. New students in any grade would follow the new boundary lines.

"We're trying to look at a win-win situation," he said.

Every elementary school in the Kaiser complex is under capacity, but Aina Haina is just nine students away from reaching its maximum ideal enrollment. Kamiloiki has 369 students — 252 students under capacity — while Koko Head is at about half of its capacity with 273.

Kamiloiki and Koko Head are among five elementary schools the department is considering for consolidation. Also being considered for closing are Liliuokalani Elementary, with 104 students, and both Kalihi and Puuhale elementary schools in the urban core.

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi is expected to say as early as next week whether she supports closing Liliuokalani and the two Kalihi schools. Parents of all three schools packed public hearings in December to oppose consolidation.

The biggest turnout by far for a consolidation public hearing, however, was in Hawaii Kai. More than 400 people jammed the cafeteria at Kaiser High School last month to challenge closing either Koko Head or Kamiloiki, saying student performance would drop and other schools in the area would suffer if either campus closed.

Some also expressed disappointment, anger and disbelief that the department would even consider closing schools where students are doing well, and that Koko Head is fighting for its future in the same year that it was named one of Hawaii's Blue Ribbon schools for achieving test scores in the top 10 percent for the state.

The department pledged to consider small schools for consolidation as part of cost-saving measures, but so far only two schools have closed: Wailupe Valley Elementary School in East Honolulu, which had 75 students, and a one-room schoolhouse on Maui.

Spared were Haleiwa Elementary on the North Shore and Kaaawa Elementary on the Windward coast, Maunaloa Elementary on Molokai and Kohala Middle on Hawaii island, all of which the department recommended against closing after parent and community opposition.

The Board of Education also voted against closing the campuses.

Randy Moore, assistant superintendent of the office of school facilities and support services, said the discussion about changing attendance areas for the Hawaii Kai schools is seen as a compromise that would not negatively affect campuses that are high-achieving.

"It would apply only to new students," he said.

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