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Kamali‘i Elementary Serves Students With Care

Technology, teachers, parents and staff make Kihei school a special place.

August 1, 2013
Celeste Keele - Contributing Writer , Maui Weekly

Now in its 17th year, Kamali'i Elementary School in Kihei enrolls more than 600 students each school year. For the first time this year, the long-established school will welcome keiki into kindergarten who are children of former students.

"Back in the day," there were no houses around the school, which afforded a clear view of the ocean and the Kama'ole beaches from its Alanui Ke'ali'i location near the Pi'ilani Highway.

With increasing development in the area over the years, students and staff on the 12-acre campus now enjoy only a partial ocean view. But due to the successful fundraising efforts by the school's active Parent Teacher Association (PTA), kids have great playground equipment on five acres of open space.

Article Photos

Kamali‘i Elementary School students are led by their teachers to and from classes, lunch and recess in an orderly line.

Although there are no more music funds for the school, the Kamali'i PTA funds 'ukulele lessons, tutoring, dancing and chess club after classes.

During a recent tour of the campus, it became apparent that Vern Dahl, a dedicated counselor who's been with the school since its beginning, seems to know each student. Dozens of kids smiled and waved, calling out his name, as the guided tour proceeded from classroom to classroom to observe teachers and students in action.

This high-tech school boasts more than 350 computers, but what is most impressive is the staff. Kamali'i's instructors teach from the heart, as well as the book. They are creative, thoughtful and sincere, and are attentive and responsive to the emotional, physical and learning needs of their students.

The school incorporates a reflexive learning system, including accelerated classes, field trips and computers available to every grade level. Students are shifted regularly, depending on their need for assistance with their studies. Teachers actively use tracking, interventions, tutoring, small groups and progress-based learning to help students master information and skills in order to move through grade levels well prepared.

Unlike private schools, Kamali'i must accept all students. Therefore, it must accommodate all types of kids and all types of challenges, including students with special needs.

Dahl explained that about 7 percent of the students are special-needs children, and many of them are assigned an adult aide who is with them every hour of the school day, both in the classroom and on the playground. They are never left alone. These special-needs students receive attentive care in appropriate programs and are tracked and assisted by thorough and competent staff.

The students are led by their teachers to and from classes, lunch and recess in an orderly line. They spend recess and lunch times within their own age groups, and are accompanied by teachers and many adult aides. Kindergartners and first-graders, second- and third-graders, and fourth- and fifth-graders recess together, each group playing separately so that younger kids aren't on the playground with older kids at the same time.

The campus is organized, friendly and modern, with adult aides and teachers everywhere as a strong presence in these students' lives.

Watching the children happily at play together, Dahl noted that the children at Kamali'i are "colorblind." "The parents--may not be," he said. "But the children, definitely." Kids from different backgrounds and cultures learn and play together here without issue, he added.

For more information about the school, call (808) 875-6840 and visit



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