Tiny Ni’ihau school finds new home as charter school

CIRA de CASTILLOTGI Staff Writer

LIHU’E — The homeless Ni’ihau School of Kekaha is expected to be established

as a Department of Education charter school, Malakai K. Kanahele announced

Friday at an Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) land committee meeting on

Kaua’i.

The school has been operating in a Kekaha park pavilion for the

past year.

Kanahele, a parent leader of the school, has been advocating for

an appropriate Ni’ihau style learning program, taught in English, for Ni’ihau

children who reside in Kekaha.

Kanahele asked OHA to provide funds needed

to match the grant money that has been secured for the charter school.

Louis Hao, OHA land committee chair, told Kanahele that the OHA Budget and

Finance committee has scheduled his request on an upcoming agenda and he hopes

to have some kind of decision soon.

Tom Helm, an education advocate who

wrote the federal grant that brought $2.6 million into the state for charter

schools, said the funds are from the U.S. Department of Education’s Public

Charters School Program to support the planning stages of public charter school

development.

Ni’ihau School has been chartered under the state

Department of Education and will be moving forward with the planning and

implementation stage. The new school is expected to open in August

2001.

Helm explained that the Ni’ihau School is one of 21 “New Century

Charter Schools” in Hawaii and one of three on Kaua’i. The Kanu I Ka Pono

Charter School of Anahola and Ke Kula Ni’ihau 0 Kekaha, a Hawaiian language

school affiliated with Kekaha Elementary School, are part of the charter school

grant program that is administered by the Hawai’i Department of

Education.

The Hawai’i awards can be renewed for up to three years and is

expected to total $7.9 million.

Like regular public schools, public charter

schools in Hawai’i must enroll a balanced representation of the school’s

community, must not charge tuition, and must link their educational program to

achievement of the Hawai’i Content and Performance Standards.

“I am so

pleased that the children will have a school that will be taught in English and

in the Ni’ihau style,” Kanahele said.

Ipo Torio, of Kanu I Ka Pono Charter

School of Anahola, assisted the effort to develop the charter school for the

Ni’ihau children of Kekaha.

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