LIHUE — Violet Asuncion loves taking part in the Kauai Performing Arts Center program.
But she, along with a handful of other students and thespians, wouldn’t mind a larger space to rehearse.
Namely, they want Kauai High School’s music room R3. But the space with acoustic-friendly walls is used for teacher meetings, storage and other gatherings, which leaves the performers looking elsewhere.
“It was really disheartening to hear that we would not be able to use it,” Asuncion, a KHS junior, said. “I feel like the arts should be considered as vital as any other school subject.”
R3 isn’t allowed for student use, said KPAC board member Lisa Pollak.
This has left several students, who believe they should have a suitable classroom in which to practice the accredited KPAC course, frustrated.
“I think it’s very unfair especially since it was designed as a music practicing room,” Asuncion said. “I think that’s very unjust and just not cool, basically.”
KPAC, a program that has run for over 20 years, is a designated learning center for the arts created through the Department of Education. Kauai High School is its designated host school.
Board members and students have been asking for permission to use the room for two and a half years, they said. Students were given permission to use R3 for their fall production last year but have since been unable to utilize the room.
Pollak said she and others have asked Kauai High School Principal Anne Kane and Kauai District Superintendent Bill Arakaki for access to the room through letters and meetings but said their requests were denied.
Arakaki said he hasn’t denied access to R3 for students, but is working with others to find a suitable location for KPAC students to practice in the after-school program.
“The rooms are being used by teachers and others during the day so we need to take care of these logistical matters before approving use of the facilities,” Arakaki wrote in an email. “Supporting our students is of our top priority and we definitely will keep this in the forefront when making the decisions related to this matter.”
He pointed out that the room was constructed as a band room for Kauai High and Intermediate School and used as a choir room when Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School opened.
But due to staffing and enrollment changes, the room was converted by the school for meetings, testing, training, professional development and office space for school curriculum, coaches and staff.
“First and foremost, classrooms are used to support instruction during the school day,” he wrote, adding he and KHS want to keep options on location open for the best interest of all involved. “I am continuing to collaborate with our high school administrators on the issue of the location for the practice and performances for our KPAC program.”
Kane didn’t return messages seeking comment.
KPAC members and students said they aren’t looking for the exclusive use of any school classroom on campus but prefer R3 as its ceiling height allows the room to be properly lit for productions. R3 is described is designed as a soundproof room featuring an additional, smaller, private practice room.
KPAC board member Patricia McGrath said KPAC requires a larger space for performances in order to store the expensive equipment used by the taxpayer-funded program.
“There is a requirement within the DOE charter that requires it to provide an appropriate facility for classes for students,” she said. “It’s the board’s contention that the DOE hasn’t done this for this program.”
Students are practicing in a smaller classroom on campus, but have to carry equipment and props halfway across campus to group rehearsal and back again.
“Students should not be having to do this to participate in a credited class,” McGrath said. “That equipment should be in a place where students can access it.”
Pollak and McGrath said 30 to 50 students take part in KPAC, but including stage help, producers and ticket sellers, more than 100 are involved in a performance.
“I’m extremely frustrated with it,” McGrath said. “We have followed all of the usual protocols and procedures. This shouldn’t be as difficult as it has been.”
KPAC students also created a video voicing their frustrations at not being able to use R3 and the demands they experience preparing for performances. They said KPAC rented Kauai Community College’s Performing Arts Center for $7,500 in 2012 to practice.
Video editor and Kapaa High School senior Sara Morimoto hopes KPAC will be able to use the facilities.
“I would definitely like to be able to rehearse in it for second semester rather than in a classroom,” she said. “I joined KPAC when I was in the ninth-grade in the fall and ever since then it’s been a big part of my life.”