More than 250 Haleiwa Elementary School parents, students and alumni came out last night to oppose a plan to shut down the historic school.
"It is on the map. It is where we belong," said Haleiwa Elementary kupuna Winona Pihana-Chaney, 78, at a public hearing last night on the plan. "I hope and pray with all my heart that we can keep it like it is."
Teresa Suan, 44, whose child attends Haleiwa Elementary, said of biggest concern is that the consolidation would send sixth-graders to Waialua Intermediate and High School.
"You move sixth-graders to a high school, they’ll be smoking ice by eighth grade," Suan told attendees yesterday.
The consolidation proposal — part of the department’s push to trim costs — has also been met with concerns from the Board of Education, which has the final say on whether to close a school. The board is expected to make a decision on the consolidation this fall.
Haleiwa Elementary School, which dates to 1871, has 168 students and is one of four rural schools being considered for closure.
The Board of Education has already closed two other schools: Wailupe Valley in East Honolulu and the one-room schoolhouse at Keanae, Maui.
Under the proposed Haleiwa consolidation, students in kindergarten through fifth grade would be transferred to Waialua Elementary School, which has 530 students. Sixth-graders from both schools would be sent to Waialua High and Intermediate School.
Board members have expressed concern about consolidating Haleiwa with Waialua — and shipping sixth-graders off to a high school campus.
Board of Education member Karen Knudsen, second vice chairwoman, said she doubts the consolidation will be approved.
"I don’t think board members’ minds are going to be changed on this," she said.
The Department of Education estimates the state could save about $720,000 by shuttering Haleiwa Elementary School.
A department consolidation report notes Haleiwa has five students per full-time staff position, while Waialua has nine.
Also being eyed for possible closure are Kaaawa Elementary, Maunaloa Elementary on Molokai and Kohala Middle School on the Big Island. Interim Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi will make recommendations in each case.
Matayoshi has not yet made a recommendation on Haleiwa.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the board this week, Matayoshi said she supports consolidating Kohala Middle School with Kohala elementary and high schools, after capital improvements are made to accommodate the larger student population. The proposal would save about $1.2 million annually.
The department has also been preparing consolidation studies for elementary schools in Hawaii Kai and in the Kalani complex.