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Dream of New School Close to Reality

Ka Waianu o Hāloa hosts fundraiser to reopen Ke‘anae School as a culturally focused public charter school. “Our children need this.”

June 23, 2011
Sarah Ruppenthal

And despite the financial odds stacked against them, the group is inching closer to reaching—what many consider to be—an ambitious goal: the Ka Waianu o Hāloa Hawaiian Culture Focused Public Charter School, which, if all goes according to plan, could be up and running in time for the 2012-13 school year.

Due to lack of funding and limited enrollment, Ke‘anae School was forced to shutter its doors in 2005. As a result, students from the remote area were forced to endure a two-hour (and sometimes longer) round-trip bus ride to and from Hāna High and Elementary. The DOE officially closed the school in 2010.

In an immediate response to the closure of the school, a group of concerned parents established Ka Waianu o Hāloa as a registered nonprofit organization, embarking on a grassroots campaign to open a public charter school for East Maui students. The community itself has embraced this project, with residents participating in Community Work Day events to repair—and prepare—the facility, which has deteriorated since the closure of the school.

Article Photos

Keiki o Ke‘anae, a photo of children of Ke‘anae, was taken on the front porch of the historic Ke‘anae School, which was forced to shutter its doors in 2005 due to lack of funding and limited enrollment. The nonprofit group Ka Waianu o Hāloa is determined to reopen its doors for children in this small East Maui community, beginning with a fundraiser, the Keiki Jam Fest, on Saturday, July 9, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ke‘anae Peninsula Park.

Photo: Kehau Kimokeo

The Ka Waianu o Hāloa Hawaiian Culture Focused Public Charter School is slated to be a community-based learning environment in which community members will be utilized both in and out of the classroom setting. Ka Waianu o Hāloa Vice President Sari Powell said the school will enroll up to 60 students, and will feature a curriculum focusing on the natural and cultural resources of the Ko‘olau region, as well as interdisciplinary and hands-on coursework with appropriate technology integrated throughout.

“We [the parents] were inspired to develop a safe learning environment with a strong cultural significance,” she said. “Our children need this.”

According to the Ka Waianu o Hāloa Board of Directors, “Our vision is to secure a foundation through perpetuation of Kanaka Maoli identity, culture and language which will be a working model of excellence in traditional and modern education in order to empower our children to contribute and positively impact the future of our families, communities and global population.” Additionally, the group said, “It is the goal of Ka Waianu o Hāloa to create a safe learning environment so that students are encouraged to explore and express their ideas as self-directed learners.”

The plan is in motion, Powell said, but one obstacle remains: “We need funding to fix the school.”

In order to raise funds for the new school, Ka Waianu o Hāloa is hosting the Ke‘anae Keiki Jam Fest on Saturday, July 9, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ke‘anae Peninsula Park (located off Mile 16 on Hāna Highway). This is the first major fundraiser for the project, and Powell hopes it will be a success.

“The entire Maui community is invited,” she said. “We hope to raise enough funds to open, run and maintain the new Ke‘anae School for our kids.” The Jam Fest will be a free, day-long event featuring live music and entertainment, a silent and live auction, lucky draw, arts and crafts, food, keiki zone, plant sale, cultural/educational demonstrations and exhibits, and a book drive for the school library.



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