Parents rally to preserve Wailupe Valley school


POSTED: Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wailupe Valley Elementary School should be preserved for its students, said parent Junko Boyd-Ritari.

“;Wailupe Valley is a treasure that treasures our kids,”; said Boyd-Ritari, who was picking up her 5-year-old son, Andrew, yesterday from the small public school at the back of the serene valley.

Some parents have mixed emotions about the potential closure of Wailupe Valley Elementary. A public hearing is to be held at 6 p.m. today at Niu Middle School's cafeteria to discuss a task force report on the advantages and disadvantages of closing Wailupe Elementary and sending students and needed staff to Aina Haina Elementary School.

In November, state Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto appointed a task force to study shutting down small public schools due to a drop in enrollment and increasing expenses. After the public hearing, task force members are expected to meet with complex area Superintendent Ronn Nozoe to recommend whether the two schools should be consolidated.

Seventy-nine K-5 students attend Wailupe Elementary, compared to 543 K-5 students at Aina Haina. According to the report, task force members determined the Department of Education would save about $800,000 annually with the closure of the school and the transfer of the students.

One of the main cost savings involves the so-called weighted student formula.

According to the report, the weighted student formula allocation to Wailupe Valley for fiscal year 2008-2009 is $954,274 or $12,079 per student, compared to $2,790,999 or $5,140 per student at Aina Haina Elementary.

Some parents of children who attend Wailupe Valley Elementary fear that their children would “;fall through the cracks”; and be “;lost in the crowd”; because of the higher student load for each teacher at Aina Haina.

Boyd-Ritari said Wailupe students and teachers are almost like family. “;You don't get that at other public schools,”; she said, noting high parent involvement at Wailupe.

Barbara Horio, the parent of a third-grader at Aina Haina Elementary, describes the possible merger of the schools as a positive move. “;I do think they do a great job here,”; she said. Horio is concerned with the larger class sizes as her son is soon to enroll as a kindergartner, but remains open-minded about the change.

“;We're hoping for the best,”; she said.

Those who are unable to attend the public hearing can mail their testimony to the Department of Education's Honolulu District Office, 4967 Kilauea Ave., Honolulu, 96816 or e-mail it to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) . Written or e-mailed testimonies must be sent no later than Saturday.

The task force report is available at www.doe.k12.hi.us. For more information, call the DOE Honolulu District Office at 733-4760.


Is merging better?

Here are some pros and cons compiled by a task force members considering consolidating Wailupe Valley Elementary School and Aina Haina Elementary School:

Combining two schools would be less costly to operate compared to operating two schools.Increase in traffic congestion and crowding at Aina Haina Elementary.
Aina Haina Elementary offers more educational programs and extracurricular options.Students at Wailupe Valley Elementary receive more individualized attention due to smaller class sizes.
Wailupe Valley Elementary students will benefit from the climate at Aina Haina Elementary, which emphasizes high student achievement.Sense of “;family”; at Wailupe Valley Elementary is stronger and may diminish for students transferring to Aina Haina Elementary.
 Concern of students “;falling through the cracks.”;