comscore Kalihi kids deserve good public schools, too | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Island Voices

Kalihi kids deserve good public schools, too

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As a concerned citizen, taxpayer, community leader, voter and, most important, a neighbor of Puuhale Elementary School, I think it is time that we stand up for what is right and stop the downward spiral of our public school system.

Have you ever wondered why we have a homeless problem? Why the prisons are overcrowded? Heard the conver- sations at various fundraisers and social events about the state of our public schools? Ever considered that the first two concerns are closely correlated to the last? If so, ever done anything about it?

Now is our chance. You see, it all begins with us. The children of Hawaii should not be a budgetary burden. They should be regarded as the solution. Instead, we are herding them into overcrowded schools, increasing the student-to-teacher ratios, disregarding the individual language and learning challenges that are so prevalent among particularly the Leeward and west side schools — all while wondering why the public school system is such a mess. All in the name of what? Budget cuts.

It’s time to speak for those who feel they cannot.

The current situation with the Kalihi schools closure proposal, Puuhale Elementary specifically, is unacceptable.

Here are some of the specific area statistics and facts that have not been adequately considered in this process:

» Redistricting.

» Additional geographic exemptions to help the school reach its maximum capacity of nearly 600 students.

» The fact that more than 30 percent of these students have special language needs now being addressed by the intensive program offered by Puuhale staffers.

The Friends of Puuhale Elementary is a new group dedicated to the rights of the student body. The precedent that has been set for the Hawaii Kai schools that were pegged for closure (GE acceptance and redistricting) has proven that there are alternative solutions.

Why is this important? Because Puuhale Elementary is a safe environment for these kids who, in many cases, have no other alternatives. Learning more about the school, I have discovered that the smaller class sizes, student demographic and psychographic diversity and intensive teacher focus and interaction have created a very specialized environment that is teaching these children that they have options outside of drugs, violence and the cycle of poverty that they are exposed to in their neighborhood.

It would be a shame to see these kids forced to walk nearly a mile each day across Nimitz Highway and Dillingham Boulevard to be subjected to overcrowded classrooms, higher teacher-student ratios and less intensive learning programs due to consolidation and reduction in resources.

Kalihi Kai’s student population is already in excess of 600 students. How can we improve the quality of public education if we herd children into classrooms like cattle?

These kids are the future adults of this community. It is in our best interest to serve them as well as we can.

I find it reprehensible that the state Department of Education has chosen two schools from the same district for recommended closure. This is discriminatory, and the Kalihi community is being specifically targeted. It is my civic duty to prove that this decision is filled with socioeconomic bias and is being rushed without consideration because the spirit of this neighborhood is generally not to fight back.

Puuhale Elementary has the capacity for 300 more students. The kids of Kalihi need the security and attention the school provides. The ohana of Hawaii needs healthy, educated children.

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