Mission School’s Last Year

Molokai’s only Christian school closing

By Melissa Kelsey

On an island as religious as Molokai, parents hoping to send their children to a Christian school are losing their only option.

Molokai Mission School in Kaunakakai, affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, will close at the end of this school year, according to Krista Hightower, the school’s principal and only teacher. Hightower said Molokai Mission School is the island’s only private religious school above the preschool level. Six students in grades four through eight are currently enrolled, and three of them are graduating eighth-graders.

“All the kids that have come through here have been amazing,” said Hightower. “This school is my sweat, blood and tears. It is very disheartening to have to say goodbye.”

Hightower said the school is closing as a result of losing its $40,000 annual subsidy from the Hawaii Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which is based in Honolulu. Molokai Mission School charges $175 per month for tuition and relies on the Conference’s financial contribution for nearly two-thirds of its operating expenses. The Conference downsized its education budget as a result of reduced tithing at Seventh-day Adventist churches statewide — possibly as a result of the economy, according to Hightower. Molokai Mission School was affected by the budget cuts due to its small enrollment. The Conference’s Honolulu office could not be reached for comments.

Molokai Mission School teaches a Biblical, Creationist worldview to students that Hightower said emphasizes community service. She cited the individual attention each student receives as one of the school’s secrets to success.

“This school is like a big family,” said graduating eighth grader Joanna Ragonton. “We get more individual attention and it is easier to communicate with each other and help each other solve problems.”

Pastor William K. Uni, III of Calvary Door of Faith Church in Kawela has one daughter currently enrolled at Molokai Mission School. Uni understands the Conference’s decision from a business standpoint. However, he said he strongly believes in Christian education and is disappointed that Molokai parents no longer have the option to send their children to a religious school.

“When I walk into this classroom, I breathe fresh air,” he said. “Education should be well-rounded with a spiritual focus.”

Uni said his experience with Molokai Mission School has been that it holds students to the highest standards.

“Because of the zero-tolerance, the guidelines and the structure the kids have, they do not get into any major trouble,” said Uni.

Hightower said Molokai Mission School has been open for more than 50 years.

A private daycare or preschool may inherit the school’s space, which could be a feeder for the school to re-organize itself in the future, according to Hightower, but the possibility has not yet been confirmed by any daycare or preschool on Molokai.

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