Charter school opts to give up grades 9-12
The Big Island's troubled Na Wai Ola (Waters of Life) Public Charter School has decided to stop offering a high school program for at least a year while it attempts to resolve its long-running facilities woes.
The school, now based in Kurtistown, has been dogged by the lack of a proper school site since its inception in 2000, and was kicked out of its latest rented space after a March altercation there between a female Waters of Life student and girls from nearby Keaau High School.
The Keaau students entered the site, causing property damaging and attacking Waters of Life students and teachers.
The board of the K-12 school, which has occupied several different locations over the years, made the "hard decision" to suspend high school for 2006-07, said Cherie Benevides, a parent representative on the board.
The decision means that between 40 and 50 students who would have been in grades 9-12 in the coming school year will have to go elsewhere.
Benevides said that will be a major blow for her son, who struggled previously in the state's traditional public schools but has thrived amid Waters of Life's small class sizes and caring approach.
"He'll have a very difficult time (in public school). A lot of parents are really worried about where they're going to send their kids now," she said.
Charter schools are given wide freedom in curriculum and other decisions not enjoyed by traditional public schools.
Waters of Life has been at the center of the debate over whether to allow more such schools in the state.
It typifies the complaint by startup charter schools that they are crippled by a lack of state facilities. However, the state auditor also criticized the school's leadership for financial mismanagement last year in a report that simultaneously faulted Board of Education oversight and the state's charter school law.
The coming year will be a "good regrouping year" that will allow the school to improve all of its programs and plan for the return of a solid high school program, said Daniel Shapiro, Waters of Life's student services coordinator.