KILAUEA — After completing a rigorous three-year program, Kauai Christian Academy has finally gained accreditation.
A team of educators from the American Association of Christian Schools visited the school in January. After reviewing the findings, the academy was awarded accredited status, making it one of only two accredited pre-K through 12th-grade private schools on the island.
According to Daniel Plunkett, an administrator, principal and teacher, the school currently has 106 students enrolled with more than 25 percent growth over the past five years.
“There’s 12 full-time people and then a number of part-time staff and teachers,” said Plunkett, who started teaching at the school 12 years ago. “It’s a traditional style of education; we use almost exclusively Christian textbooks to fit with our world view philosophy.”
The school also provides dual enrollment classes for juniors and seniors, so they can earn college credit through Liberty University, Maranatha Baptist College and online classes.
“We’re so small we can give a lot of individual counseling and help to our seniors,” Plunkett said.
The school originally opened in Anahola in 1973, before moving the same building to its current 10-acre site in 1999.
Over the years, the improvement process has included the addition of several teachers, renovations to facilities, air conditioning, transportation services to and from Kapaa, curriculum reviews, and improved academic and extracurricular offerings.
“All of our kids, pre-K through sixth grade, are involved in the gardening program,” Plunkett said.
Sophomore student Grace Burns of Kapaa has three older sisters who graduated from the school.
“I like how we don’t have that many people, so you get a lot of attention with the teachers,” she said. “It’s easier for them to help you because there’s not so many people in one classroom. With the community and students here, we all have a really good bond.”
Teacher Becky Morales has been teaching on Kauai since 1985. She grew up as a pastor’s daughter in Delaware before receiving her elementary education degree in South Carolina. Her children attended the school, so she decided to join them as a faculty member.
“We’re a Christian school. It’s not just a name, it’s a belief and a way of life,” Morales said. “Being able to share that with the students and the families and being able to support those ideals that their parents have and being able to share God’s word and pray freely are part of our everyday life.
“It’s rewarding and fulfilling to be able to integrate it and make it a part of school and education.”
Leah Farley teaches seventh- through 12th-grades in math, Spanish, science and Bible studies.
“It’s fun imparting knowledge, but we also get to hang out with the kids at lunchtime,” she said. “Because of the small school, we get to really be involved in their lives.”
“This school has a very family feel,” Farley added. “There’s just a lot of caring.”
The 22-year-old, first-year teacher leads the student government, organizing spirit week and developing fundraisers and other student ideas.
Students are required to do community service to give back to the community, helping at the food pantry and making care packages for firefighters, police and nurses.
Next month, students are excited to take a two-day field trip to Oahu, spending the night on the USS Missouri.
Pastor George Milgrim of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Hanalei was proud to see his daughter graduate from the academy last year. His family did mission work in Micronesia for 13 years before moving here.
“We like the staff here, it’s small enough to where there’s a lot of one-on-one with the teachers, not too busy that your child gets lost in the crowd,” he said.
His daughter enjoyed the school so much that she came back to serve as a preschool teacher’s aide.
Cyra Feliz, 10, really likes learning at the school. “I really enjoy it,” she said. “I live in Kapaa, but it’s worth the drive over here.”
The school intends to continue growing well into the future, and applications are currently being accepted for the 2018-19 academic year.
Tuition is about $6,350 a year. Scholarships are offered based on financial status, and faculty children attend for free.
“We’re coming at things from a Christian perspective,” Plunkett said. “That gives us a philosophical foundation and a foundation for discipline of students — a foundation for all the academic subjects that can anchor kids not just academically but spiritually.”