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Editorial | Island Voices

Don’t combine schools in Waialua and Haleiwa

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"Perspective" is a very important decision-making tool. So, let’s put the following question in perspective:


Should we shut down one of the two elementary schools serving the Waialua/Haleiwa area to save $700,000 per year?

Well, what percentage of the state’s annual school operating budget would we save by eliminating a $700,000 expense?

The state spends about $1.1 billion on basic school operations every year.

So, to put things in perspective, closing down an elementary school on the North Shore will save the state about six one-hundredths of 1 percent of its annual school operations budget.

There is nothing wrong with saving six one-hundredths of 1 percent of your annual budget. Heck, if you do it 10 times, then you have saved a whole six-tenths of 1 percent.

But common sense tells you that you do not make disruptive and risky decisions to save six one-hundredths of 1 percent of your budget. For that kind of savings, you might buy an economy brand of ink for your copy machines, not disrupt the education of hundreds of children on the North Shore.

Here is a quick summary of the situation in the Waialua Complex: You have two elementary schools serving two different communities. Waialua serves Waialua. Haleiwa serves Haleiwa. In a state where two-thirds of schools are not making the grade for No Child Left Behind, these two schools are. Waialua is almost at full capacity with 500 students, and Haleiwa is a smaller school with about 175 students.

In order to consolidate by shutting down one of the schools, you must have one school that is at maximum capacity to serve two communities and send sixth-grade elementary students up to a high school campus. In other words, you must close down one successful school, totally disrupt another successful school, and send 12-year-olds to share a campus with 18-year-olds.

On top of this, since you will have only one elementary school left, already at full capacity, you take the risk of having to spend an enormous amount of money to build new facilities if there is population growth on the North Shore.

From an educational perspective, it makes no sense to shut down one of the two elementary schools and send sixth-grade students up to the high school. It also makes little sense to take the risk of shutting down a facility now only to have build or refurbish facilities if there is even minor population growth in the near future.

Despite these facts, from a financial perspective, it still might make sense if the savings were enormous. You could imagine someone saying, "I know it is risky and makes no sense from an educational standpoint, but we will save 5 percent of our annual budget, and times are tough, so the North Shore will just have to take one for the team."

That same speech sounds pretty ridiculous if you correct it by changing "5 percent" to "six one-hundredths of 1 percent."

To put things in perspective, it is OK to do something perfectly reasonable to save a very small percentage of your budget. It might even be OK to do something risky and disruptive to save a large portion of your budget.

With all due respect, however, it is unreasonable and irresponsible to do something that is risky and disruptive to save a tiny fraction of 1 percent of your budget.


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