Task force united in vote to shutter Wailupe school


POSTED: Friday, April 24, 2009

A task force unanimously recommended last night to close Wailupe Valley Elementary School and consolidate it by this fall with Aina Haina Elementary School.

All 79 Wailupe students would be moved, including those with geographic exception, to attend Aina Haina, under the recommendation.

The task force also recommended to set aside up to $200,000 for the transition.

The savings to the Department of Education if Wailupe is shut down would be a little less than $800,000, mostly for salary costs. However, the school could be reopened as another type of public school.

The recommendation goes to the DOE's complex-area Superintendent Ronn Nozoe and then to Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto, but the Board of Education makes the final decision. Nozoe was at last night's meeting held at Aina Haina.

“;What happens with the school is ultimately my responsibility,”; said Nozoe. “;That's what I'm hired and fired to do.”;

He said a private school is looking into the possibility of leasing the space, but he had previously said he would like to see the facility turned into a Department of Education magnet school focusing on math, science or some other area.

Five people testified, four against closing the school.

Wailupe parent Ross Watanabe said the task force did not appear to look into any other options other than closing the school.

He said the community is changing, and many children and grandchildren are moving back into the valley. He said the boundaries are small compared with the other area schools.

But 60 percent of the students at Wailupe are from outside the area.

Janet Borja, a task force member and a parent of a Wailupe student, said, “;I think I made the right decision. If it was real easy to keep it open with the help of the DOE, I would. But there are lots of issues, and to vote to keep it open just to keep it open, I wasn't going to do that.”;

She was concerned because many parents, including herself, had already applied for geographic exception for Aina Haina.