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Thursday, July 31, 2014         

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Zone adjustment would help small schools stay open

By Mary Vorsino

POSTED:



A proposal to change Hawaii Kai attendance areas, boosting enrollment for two small, high-performing elementary schools in danger of consolidation, got strong support yesterday from parents at a Board of Education meeting.

Public Meeting

» What: The public is invited to weigh in on the changes to attendance areas.
» When: 6 p.m. Feb. 16
» Where: Kaiser High School cafeteria
Many called it a "win-win."

"I think it's wonderful," said Traci Yamamura, whose daughter attends Koko Head Elementary, one of the schools that was in danger of closing because of its small size. "This is a good compromise."

The proposal, which was outlined in the BOE meeting yesterday, 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. The Department of Education had been considering closing Kamiloiki or Koko Head.

Randy Moore, DOE assistant superintendent of the office of school facilities and support services, told board members yesterday that the compromise would still save money -- the aim of consolidating small schools. The potential savings from the proposal is $250,000 a year, compared with $360,000 under a consolidation.

Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi said the plan makes sense.

"It's just looking at things realistically," he said. "It's actually better."

State Rep. Gene Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai) agreed, saying the proposal would keep the "best schools open."

"They're doing the right thing: steer far, far away from closure," said Ward, who has came out strongly against closing either school.

The meeting was held at Kamiloiki Elementary School, and about 70 people -- including many parents -- came out to hear the proposal. Only a handful signed up to testify, which DOE officials are taking as a sign that most are happy with the plan.

A community meeting on the proposal will be held Feb. 16.

This is the first time in recent discussions of consolidating small schools that the department has considered shifting attendance areas to increase enrollment.

Changing attendance zones requires the go-ahead from Kaiser complex-area Superintendent Calvin Nomiyama. In a letter to parents on Jan. 31, Nomiyama wrote that the modified attendance areas would go into effect for the coming school year and that current students at all three elementary schools would be "grandfathered in."

New students in any grade would follow the new boundary lines.

But siblings of students at Aina Haina who are not yet enrolled can apply for a geographic exception.

Every elementary school in the Kaiser complex is under capacity, but Aina Haina is just nine students away from reaching its maximum ideal enrollment.






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