Maunaloa School Closer to Staying Open

Maunaloa Elementary School has passed the second of four hurdles in the community’s effort to keep the school open. On June 20, Lindsay Ball, Complex Area Superintendant for Molokai, issued his recommendation in favor of the school’s preservation, but added a twist. He suggested Maunaloa “serve as a branch of Kaunakakai School,” consolidating administration to the larger school.

The state identified Maunaloa as one of a handful of small schools in the state eligible for consolidation.  That means closure of the campus and transferring all students to either Kuapapu`u Elementary or Kaunakakai Elementary. A Consolidation Task Force made up of community members and educators was organized in October 2009 to gather facts and community mana`o, and file a recommendation to the Board of Education. About a month ago, the task force voted unanimously to advocate against consolidation of Maunaloa School.

The task force estimated an annual net savings of about $349,000 if consolidation occurred. That’s less than the Department of Education’s (DOE) latest estimate of $650,000. But even the DOE’s numbers are less than one percent of the DOE’s total budget for the 2009-10 school year — nearly $227 million.

While the suggested closure is based on economic savings, both task force members and residents said the decision should not be based on numbers alone. Parents pointed to the progress that individual students had made in Maunaloa’s small class sizes. Community members testified that without the school, the town of Maunaloa would have little left.

“I am in agreement with the Maunaloa Task Force Committee recommendation to keep Maunaloa Elementary School open,” wrote Ball in his statement to Department of Education Superintendant Kathryn Matayoshi.

Regarding administrative consolidation with Kaunakakai School, Ball wrote, “With the current student population and staff at Maunaloa there is no reason for a full-time principal on-site.”

Now that Ball has made his recommendation, Matayoshi must make her own recommendation to the Board of Education. The BOE will make the final decision on whether or not to keep the school open. There is no timeline set for their verdict.

Maunaloa School has been operating for over 70 years. Currently 54 students are enrolled.

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