Charter school expects to open in August

KAPAA — Alakai O Kauai Public Charter School is enrolling students.

The school unanimously approved by the Hawaii State Charter School Commission is on track to open in August with 165 students.

The governing board had until Jan. 15 to decide whether the school would be ready to open in time for the 2017 school year.

“We could have opted to open in 2018 and use this coming year to apply for federal money to assist us in opening with start-up funds,” said Kani “Dr. B” Blackwell, acting chair. “But after the community has been waiting for three years, we felt we needed to open.”

Enrollment for grades K-5 started Tuesday and will run through March 31.

The school will include two kindergarten classes, one class each for first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade. Enrollment is open to keiki between ages 5 and 11.

The maximum number of students in kindergarten is 40. First through fifth grades can take a maximum of 25 students.

So far, the school has received about 20 applications, a third of which are for kindergarten, Blackwell said.

The school also plans to hire seven teachers.

One obstacle Alakai O Kauai Public Charter School still faces is finding a home. Officials are negotiating with a Kapaa property owner, but Blackwell did not want to give details.

“Any publicity will harm us, so we can only say that the Charter Commission received a letter stating that the property owner will lease to us,” she said. “The property is in Kapaa, so that is great to be able to tell our community.”

Another challenge facing the school is money.

The school needs between $150,000 and $200,000 to open. About $30,000 has been raised via GoFundMe and a holiday benefit dinner that raised about $1,800.

State funding begins in August, but the school needs to raise about $150,000 on its own, to get the institution running.

“We are applying for any grants we qualify for, appealing to philanthropists, and seeking donations from our community,” Blackwell said. “If we could only find that special philanthropist to help us out, we would be set.”

After enrollment ends on March 31, the school board will take a look at the number of applications and decide if a lottery is needed, Blackwell said.

“If the numbers are at or below what we can accommodate in that grade level, then they all will be invited to enroll by completing the enrollment packet,” she said. “If there are more applications for one grade, say kindergartners are more than 40, then there will need to be a lottery for that grade or any grade that has more than the allotted slots.”

If a lottery is needed, the school will hold it on April 6. Parents will have until April 27 to complete the enrollment package for their child.

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Jenna Carpenter, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0441.

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