Charter school hopes to open in 2018

WAILUA — Brittany Steinbeck is determined to help open Alakai O Kauai Public Charter School by the next school year.

“We’re the change the world needs to make this happen,” she said. “We need choices because I don’t want my daughter to memorize things — math and science, they’re already a part of her.”

Steinbeck, who moved to the island 10 months ago, said when she found out about AOKPCS, she knew she had to get involved.

“I’m meant to be here; I can be a part of the governing board. It’s so inspiring to be a part of my child’s learning,” she said.

Steinbeck was one of about 10 people who attended a town hall meeting Monday at Lydgate Beach Park to discuss the future of AOKPCS.

Board members were working to get the school, which was unanimously approved by the Hawaii State Charter School Commission in 2016, to open by August, in time for the next school year.

But in April, board members decided the school was not ready to open, citing an unsuccessful search to find a facility.

“This was so many years coming, and it was really exciting to have a really cool charter school where kids would be lifted up according to their needs,” said Omashar, a local musician and prospective parent.

Omashar said his 9-year-old daughter, who is currently being homeschooled in Kilauea, had been accepted to start AOKPCS in the fall, and the family hadn’t registered her for another school.

“Now, the carpet’s been pulled from underneath us, and 100-plus families have to start over,” he said.

Over 100 students had already enrolled in the school.

During the eight-month search, the school board tried over 20 locations, including leasing empty land on Kawaihau Road near Mahelona Medical Center and renting spaces in churches, offices and halls.

Every site required approval from the Planning Department and adherence to fire, health and safety codes, and if the school wanted to take over an empty retail space, officials would have to apply for a variance, said Indy Reeves, vice president of the board.

“We looked at so many places over the last couple years,” said Kani “DrB” Blackwell. “We’ve got children out there, waiting for this school. This is a school for the community that will put Kauai ahead of education transformation.”

The board is currently looking for volunteers to serve on the school board.

Steinbeck, who moved from California, said she is ready to do whatever is needed to get the school open.

“I have the energy to be a part of this. I came from two public charter schools in California, and we always had to raise $250,000 every year,” she said. “I’m used to putting that energy out, and I feel that we can receive that.”

Dan Knudsen wanted his daughter to be a student at AOKPCS, which offers free, project-based learning to kids in kindergarten to fifth grade.

“I’m not a big fan of the public school, so I think we need a school like this,” he said.

Moving forward, finding a facility and fundraising will be the next focus for the school, Blackwell said.

For Nicola Sherrill, secretary of the school board, it will take a community effort to get the school open in time for August 2018.

“We’ve got the boards; we’ve got the nails. We have everything in line here. We need people to come and help us raise this school,” she said. “We got through the most difficult part, which was to get the charter. We’re right there — we just need a location. It’s at our fingertips, and is something that in this next year, we can make it happen as a community.”

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