Saturday, August 21, 2004

New charter campus
is in Manoa

A school featuring Hawaiian
history and culture relocates
to Paradise Park

The 90 boys and girls in the sixth through 12th grades at the Halau Ku Mana public charter school begin classes Monday on a new campus as part of a planned center to restore, preserve and demonstrate the Hawaiian culture.

Charter schools "provide children with a place where they can be themselves, be comfortable, be successful, be the future leaders of our state," said Gov. Linda Lingle, who participated in a Hawaiian blessing ceremony deep in Manoa Valley to mark the opening of the new campus.

It also solves the decade-old issue of what to do with Paradise Park, a once popular tourist attraction featuring exotic birds and a tropical botanical garden along Manoa Stream that opened in 1968 and closed in 1994.

The school's offices and classrooms will occupy lower floors of the park's building, in which the Tree Top restaurant will still operate on the top floor. It also will have outdoor classrooms in pavilions on the park grounds.

The school will serve as the educational component of the nonprofit Hawaiian Cultural Preservation Council's ambitious plans to have a center featuring Hawaiian history, language, legends, healing, hula, navigation, martial arts, canoe building, fishing and farming, tattooing, and arts and crafts.

The 152-acre property, owned by the Roman Catholic Church, is under a long-term lease to the Wong family, which had been looking at alternatives since the closing of the park.

The Legislature appropriated $5.5 million in 2002 to the University of Hawaii to buy the property to use as a tropical ecosystems research center, a project strongly supported by House Speaker Calvin Say. This year, lawmakers passed a resolution urging release of those funds.

However, Lingle, as did her predecessor, Democrat Ben Cayetano, declined to release the funds, citing the unknown additional construction costs and operating expenses that would be needed.

Ken Kaneshiro, director of the University of Hawaii Center for Conservation Research and Training, had said having the site would increase the chances of getting an $80 million National Science Foundation grant for UH to be part of a national research project to monitor different ecosystems.

When politics stalled that project, Darryl Wong, vice president of Paradise Park and a member of the family that owns the lease, struck a deal with the Hawaiian Cultural Preservation Center.

Lingle, a champion of charter schools, addressed the student body, family, friends, faculty and students from two other Hawaiian charter schools gathered in a rustic but usable park amphitheater to mark the opening of the new campus for Halau Ku Mana, which previously was on the UH campus.

The Republican governor said Halau Ku Mana has found a solution to the problem facing many of the state's other charter schools, adequate facilities.

She promised that her administration will press next year's Legislature to make sure charter schools are treated fairly when it comes to funding for operations as well as facilities.

Charter schools are public schools that operate under a charter with the state that gives them more autonomy over their operations. The number of charter schools is currently limited to 26.

"And we're going to fight for removing the cap in the number of charter schools in our state," Lingle said. "Right now we can't start new charter schools, and that's the opposite of what we should be doing."

Lingle said the administration also will seek to end the Department of Education's monopoly on authorizing new charter schools, allowing permission to other entities such as the University of Hawaii or the County Councils.

UH Charter Schools Resource Center



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