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Saturday, December 20, 2014         

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Proposal lets schools stay open by redrawing district boundaries

By Mary Vorsino

POSTED:

A plan to redraw Hawaii Kai attendance boundaries and send about 150 children to Koko Head Elementary -- instead of Aina Haina Elementary -- caught flak from a handful of parents last night, who said the compromise aimed at keeping Koko Head open puts their kids at a disadvantage.

"It's really not fair," said Kristie Kutaka, a Kuliouou resident with two children, ages 4 and 17 months. "They're using our community to benefit another community."

The Department of Education has proposed shifting boundaries that determine which school a student attends so enrollment goes up at Koko Head while Aina Haina Elementary School's population drops by about 150 students.

Under the DOE plan, students who live in Kuliouou would attend Koko Head instead of Aina Haina.

The DOE had been considering closing either Kamiloiki or Koko Head elementary schools because of their tiny enrollments.

The compromise has received strong support from Kamiloiki and Koko Head parents, but Kuliouou parents say the proposal will mean morning commute headaches and could have siblings going to different elementary schools.

About 30 people attended a public meeting last night at Kaiser High School on the proposal, and several questioned why Kuliouou children would be sent to Koko Head and not Hahaione Elementary, which is closer.

Several also said they moved to Kuliouou to send their children to Aina Haina Elementary.

The modified attendance area would go into effect for the coming school year and, the DOE has stressed, current students at all three elementary schools would be "grandfathered in."

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

And siblings of students at Aina Haina who are not yet enrolled can apply for a geographic exception, and will be given priority.

But parents said they are worried about the geographic exception process, because it won't guarantee their children a spot at Aina Haina Elementary.

"We moved to Kuliouou because of the school district," said Dominique Horvath, mother of a 4-year-old and 1-year-old.

Calvin Nomiyama, Kaiser complex-area superintendent, told parents he understood the concerns and agreed change wasn't going to be easy. But, he added, the shift would benefit students across the complex.

He also pointed out that turnout last night paled in comparison to the more than 400 who came out for a public hearing in December to speak out against closing Koko Head or Kamiloiki.

"Do we want to shut down high-performing schools?" he asked parents. "I wouldn't be here if times weren't so hard. From where I sit, I have this tough call to make."

The plan is moving forward as the DOE is recommending the closure of three other schools: Queen Liliuokalani Elementary in Kaimuki and two Kalihi elementary schools, Kalihi and Puuhale.

The consolidations discussion is part of a statewide review of small schools to cut costs.

So far the state has closed two schools but spared six others on the possible closure list, including the two high-performing schools in Hawaii Kai.






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