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Molokai school with 6 students shuts down


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POSTED: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

KAUNAKAKAI » A funding shortfall is forcing a 50-year-old private school on Molokai to close at the end of this school year, making it the latest small Hawaii school to shut its doors because of the recession.

The Molokai Mission School in Kaunakakai enrolls six students in grades 3 through 8. The school normally receives a $35,000 to $40,000 annual subsidy from the Hawaii Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, but the church is unable to send the money this year.

The subsidy makes up about half the school's budget, which pays its one teacher's $70,000 salary. Without the subsidy, Molokai Mission “;cannot come up with the money,”; said Ralph Kanemitsu, the school's treasurer.

School Board Chairwoman Carol Kanemitsu, his wife, said economic conditions forced the church to cut funding for smaller schools.

The other Seventh-day Adventist-affiliated school in Maui County, Maui Adventist School in Kahului, will not be affected. It has 42 students.

At one time, Molokai Mission enrolled as many as 20 to 30 students.

The news come just one week after High School of the Pacific on the Big Island said it would close because of a funding shortfall.

The 38-student private high school in Kealakekua offers free education to students from Pacific island nations.

The school said the economic downturn had hurt its primary source of funding, financial supporters living in Japan.

The nonsectarian school opened in 2004 with backing from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the Unification Church, and his followers.

State tax revenue declines have also pushed the state to close at least one smaller public school.

The state Board of Education voted unanimously earlier this month to close Wailupe Valley Elementary School in East Honolulu. Wailupe's 75 students are expected to attend nearby Aina Haina Elementary instead.

The Department of Education pushed for the closure, saying the merger of the two schools would save the department $750,000 annually.

It would also eliminate the need for $600,000 in classroom renovations at Wailupe.

The department wants to consolidate some schools in an effort to cut costs and deal with millions in budget cuts.