Waimea Canyon School to drop grades kindergarten through fifth by 2007-08

Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories about the conversion of Waimea Canyon School from kindergarten to eighth grade, to a middle school for those in grades six through eight.

WAIMEA — Waimea Canyon School (WCS), currently serving students from kindergarten through grade eight, will convert to a middle school serving students from grades 6 through 8 beginning in July, 2007.

Students in grades kindergarten through grade five, who would normally attend WCS, will attend either Kekaha School or Eleele School.

Students who would normally attend Kekaha and Eleele schools for sixth grade will attend WCS.

State Department of Education Kaua’i Complex Area Superintendent Daniel Hamada made the announcement to start planning for the conversion at a principals’ meeting last month.

This month, West Complex principals have been informing members of their staffs and School Community Councils (SCC) about the planned changes.

School Renewal Specialist Billi Smith, formerly principal at Kekaha School, has been given the task of coordinating the conversion efforts.

“It makes sense,” says Smith, “that a complex person makes sure that none of the pieces drop, helps with conversations, helps with the hard parts,” because the reconfiguration of WSC impacts the feeder schools.

There are two parts of the conversion. One is facilities changes, and the other is converting to the middle-school philosophy.

Smith said she is working in tandem with Administrative Services Assistant Nathan Kawaguchi, who in turn is working with state facilities people.

An initial look at the building specifications shows very little needs to be done, Smith observed. The middle-school portion of WCS was added in 1977, so all the physical components of a middle school are in place and can accommodate the additional students.

The elementary classrooms that are outfitted with cubby holes and low sinks need to be upgraded for older students who need more space.

WCS is slated for major renovations this spring. Some of the upgrading may be done at that time, Smith said.

Changing the WCS serve-only cafeteria to a full-service cafeteria will be written into the plans, but will not prevent the middle-school conversion from happening in 2007.

The steps necessary to get it approved as a capital-improvement project will be taken. Currently, Waimea High School cafeteria staff members provide the meals for WCS.

The projected numbers indicate an even swap, as principals at the elementary schools give up their sixth graders, and accept some additional students in grades kindergarten through five.

Makaweli post office will be the dividing line. Those west of the post office will attend Kekaha School. Those east of the post office will attend Eleele School. Facilities are the “easy part,” Smith said.

  • Cynthia Matsuoka, a Lihu’e-based freelance writer, is the former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi, and writes periodically on education issues exclusively for The Garden Island. Messages for her may be left with Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, at 245-3681, ext. 224, or pcurtis@kauaipubco.com.

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