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Aka`ula to Open High School

Like the students they serve, Aka`ula School is growing exponentially. Administration recently announced plans to add a high school curriculum to the private middle school.

Education is an essential part of the youth on Molokai and administrators of Aka`ula School said they want to perpetuate that. 

“It’s another choice for families on the island,” said Darleen “Lei” Ah Loy, a teacher at Aka`ula.

Founded in 2003 in Kaunakakai, Aka`ula moved their growing student base to Kualapu`u a few years ago. By expanding into ninth grade starting next fall, Aka`ula will be able to retain some of their 68 students – and welcome those from other schools. Ah Loy said they already have around 10 freshmen students to begin the next school year, on July 25.

Aka`ula welcomed parents and community members interested in their school for a meeting last Wednesday to discuss the upcoming changes. 

Principal Dara Lukonen said that the community has encouraged them to expand the school.

“I’m excited to start something that the parents have been asking us to do for a while,” she said.

They want to take this new program in one year at a time. Aka`ula will add ninth grade to its 2011/2011 school year, and continue adding additional grade levels each year. The school is also looking for another teacher to hire for the future high school.

The high school is currently undergoing an accreditation process. Some parents at the meeting said they were concerned that the school may not achieve the license.

“We’d have to be really negligent to be turned down,” Lukonen said. 

Ah Loy, who is also the accreditation coordinator at Aka`ula, is excited to do something new.“It broadens my career as a teacher,” Ah Loy said. She currently teaches pre-algebra, science, cultural studies, math and art. 

The teachers aren’t the only ones looking forward to what the future holds.

“I think high school will be a challenge,” said eighth grader Kulani Iaea, adding he is looking forward to staying in Kualapu`u and studying with his friends.

The high school curriculum will be split between classroom and online work. Although online classes can be worked on at home, Ah Loy said Aka`ula will have an on-campus teacher for those classes.

“We are looking for students who want to maximize their time on campus,” Ah Loy said. Education and work ethic go hand in hand at Aka`ula. The school will give their high school students opportunities to pay for their tuition through work-study programs called, “Cash for Career.” Students will be given opportunities to work at community businesses and help tutor younger students on campus.

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