Alakai opens

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The front of the Katherine Lui Hall is seen, where grades kindergarten through five are housed, at the Alakai O Kauai charter school at Kahili Mountain Park near Omao.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Alakai O Kauai fifth-grade teacher Amy Letherer gives instruction on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project using 10 sheets of paper and a supply of masking tape to create a structure capable of balancing a stack of books Thursday during the second day of class at the new charter school located at Kahili Mountain Park.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The combined first- and second-grade class of the Alakai O Kauai charter school enjoy the play equipment Thursday. Denise Trentham, the school’s director, said more equipment will be arriving to join the existing inventory from a middle school that no longer needs play equipment for elementary school students.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Alakai O Kauai fifth-grade students react to the balancing of books atop a paper sculpture during a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) class project Thursday at the new charter school that opened Wednesday at the Kahili Mountain Park site.

“This is a good school,” said Nanea Abreu, a fifth-grade student. “There’s no homework!”

Abreu was part of the more than 140 students from kindergarten through fifth grade who enjoyed the opening of the Alakai O Kauai charter school Wednesday. The original opening date for students was scheduled for Tuesday, but delayed due to the heavy rains resulting from the remnants of now Post-Tropical Cyclone Lane.

“We were so excited to finally open Alakai O Kauai charter school, a new school for Kauai,” said Dr. Kani “Dr. B” Blackwell, the past president of the Alakai school board, in an email. “But Mother Nature insisted we wait another day, and school was canceled on opening day. As one parent said, ‘Alakai team persevered for three years. What is one day more?’”

The rain gone, and the access road filled in, Alakai O Kauai opened to 148 students for a full day of class.

“We are rated for 165 students,” said Denise Trentham, Alakai O Kauai director. “With 148 students attending, we have room for 18 more seats.”

She said opening day was a mixture of readying the school as well as students settling into a new routine.

“It was unbelievable,” Trentham said. “The students were a blast. The parents were still putting in picnic tables (for the students to enjoy lunch and outdoor snack), helping in the classrooms, and handling parking. At one point, I stuck my head outside the main building. I could hear the children singing, laughing, and other sounds emanating from the classrooms. That just filled my heart with joy. We brought life back to these buildings,” she said of the former Kahili Adventist School campus.

Trentham said improvements to the campus are still taking place around the classes.

“We’re getting more playground equipment,” she said. “We got a call from a middle school who said they don’t have need for elementary level play equipment because they are now a middle school. I explained that we didn’t have the means to transport the equipment, and they said they woould take care of it. This addition will expand the offerings for our students.”

Kindergarten and fifth grade are stand-alone classes, Trentham said. Grades one and two are combined, and grades three and four are combined.

“At Alakai O Kauai, we teach to standards, not a bought textbook,” she said.

School starts at 8:15 a.m. and runs through 2:25 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

“Friday is our early-out,” Trentham said. “Class starts at 8:15 and school lets out at 1:40 p.m.”

She said Alakai O Kauai is planning on having a grand opening celebration on Sept. 29 at the Kahili Mountain Park campus.

“The public is invited to come and see what Alakai O Kauai is all about,” she said. “We’ll have diginitaries doing their remarks, visitors who helped us reach this point from Oahu, and the children performing for everyone. It’s all free, and allows people to see for themselves what Alakai O Kauai is all about.”


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or


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