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BOE votes to close Wailupe Elementary


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POSTED: Saturday, May 02, 2009

Janet Borja wept yesterday after the state Board of Education decided to close her son and daughter's school.

Despite the tears, the action was not a surprise for Borja, since she is a member of the state task force that recommended closing Wailupe Valley Elementary and merging it with nearby Aina Haina Elementary.

;[Preview]    Wailupe Valley Elementary Closes July 1
  ;[Preview]
 

The Board of Education voted unanimously to close the school, and students will be accepted at Aina Haina.

Watch ]

 

“;I knew this was coming. I guess to actually hear it, I wasn't prepared,”; said Borja, 37, a Wailupe Valley resident.

She voted to close the school because it would mean more social and academic opportunities for the children.

“;We love that school,”; she said of Wailupe.

The board unanimously approved closing the East Oahu school on July 1, the first time a public school in Hawaii has been shuttered since Anuenue Elementary in Palolo in 1987.

The decision was the result of a state rule that requires that a school be considered for closure when a third of its classrooms are empty or in disrepair.

The state is also looking at closing other schools.

Several Wailupe supporters were heartbroken by the action but commended the board for making a quick decision so students and families can move on.

Wailupe has 74 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. About 60 percent of those students live outside the district and received geographic exemptions to attend Wailupe. Those students will also be allowed to attend Aina Haina, which now has 540 children but can hold about 700 students.

At a special meeting yesterday, the board considered the task force's study that found the state can save about $800,000 a year and $600,000 in classroom repairs by closing Wailupe. To facilitate the consolidation next school year, the state will give Aina Haina $200,000.

Board member Donna Ikeda recalled Wailupe facing closure 35 years ago when it had more than 200 students.

“;This is probably the lowest it's ever been,”; she said. “;There is no doubt that this is a better move.”;

Board members had hoped to use the Wailupe property for a special school or as office space, but the city, which owns it, requested it back for public use.

Wailupe's staff will be transferred to other locations.

Parent Brandy Rea, 39, of Waialae Iki said morale has fallen at Wailupe as leaders prepared students and families for the closure.

“;It's been exhausting,”; she said. “;Even if we stayed open, the process has been hard on us.”;

Wailupe Principal Susan Okano said the school will hold its 50th anniversary Friday.

“;The heart says one thing; the head says another,”; she said. “;You understand the decisions, why it's being said, and yet it's still very sad.”;