The Department of Education has decided to close Kaaawa School and is forming a task force to decide where students will go in the future, despite the small school’s record of academic achievement.
The department’s position was announced by Windward school superintendent Lea Albert at a meeting of the Kaaawa School Community Council last week.
Albert provided a copy of a December 10 letter from DOE superintendent Pat Hamamoto leaving no doubt as to the department’s position:
The Department of Education has concluded that the continued operation of Kaaawa Elementary School is not in the best interest of the school’s students and staff or of the public at large.
The letter cited the poor condition of some of the school’s temporary or portable buildings, its location in tsunami and flood zones, and the difficulty of complying with an EPA order to close down its large capacity cesspool.
The letter suprised community members who expected at least some public discussion before any final decision about closing the school was made.
This is especially frustrating to the staff of the school who have worked hard to make our school one of only 2 in our complex that has never been under sanction for not meeting NCLB AYP standards and our school is the most highly utilized in our complex (158 students, with the capacity for 161). Both of our neighboring schools (Waiahole and Hauula) have been in restructuring and both have excess capacity over enrollment of more than 150. All three schools have served their communities for more than 100 years. The school’s high level of academic performance and its local accessibility have been factors in many parents’ choice to send their children to this school.
“It is hard to imagine Ka’a'awa without it’s school, but it looks like the DOE has a pretty strong opinion about closing it, and backs it up with numerous reasons,” said John Morgan, whose family originally donated use of the land for a school in the community. If no longer used as the site of a school, the 3.7 acre site will revert to Kualoa Ranch, Inc., Morgan said, although some legal questions remain.
The Kaaawa Community Association is trying to schedule a January meeting at which the DOE will discus its decision and the next steps in planning.