Akaula Middle School Here to Stay
School gets three-year extension to operate in a business district while looking for permanent location.
By Léo Azambuja
The keiki at Akaula Middle School may not care or understand about law yet. But if they did, they would be stoked. Last week, the Molokai Planning Commission granted the school a three-year extension to operate in a business district.
This extension means more time for the school to find a permanent location. Principal Vicky Newberry was all smiles. The school’s board of trustees had requested a two-year extension, and ended up being granted an additional year.
Akaula School is located in the same building where Pizza Café and other businesses operate. Newberry said schools are normally not permitted in business districts.
The planning commission approved the extension on the special use permit based on the fact that the school is actively pursuing a site in a permitted location. Newberry said the board of trustees is actively exploring options. “We just haven’t found what would work for us yet,” she said.
“We want to be in town as much as possible to take advantage of county facilities,” Newberry said. The children routinely use the county’s swimming pool, gym and public library. If the school remains in town, it would save on transportation expenses.
Akaula School is an independent private school. Students, teachers and staff raise the money needed for the school’s operational costs. Newberry said the cost of educating one child at Akaula runs at about $6,000 annually. Parents are responsible for one-third of the tuition, while fundraising accounts for another third. The rest is obtained through grant-writing.
Compared to other schools, Akaula is very affordable. “We come in the low-end,” Newberry said. According to her, some private schools charge as much as $20,000 annually, while the government spends about $8,000 to $10,000 annually to educate a child in a public school.
“We still support public education,” Newberry said, but explained the importance of providing educational alternatives to Molokai youth. “We are not taking anything away from public schools,” she said. “We are probably saving them some money.”
Although the location where the school operates is convenient, the board of trustees is concerned about expansion issues. The current site does allow for an additional 20 students, but Newberry thinks the classrooms would be “a little too crowded.”
Akaula Middle School services grades 5-8. Anyone interested in additional information can contact administrators at 553-3711.