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Ka`u News Briefs Tuesday, July 23, 2013

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Mike Durminsky and Wayne Kawachi re-roofing restrooms at Pahala Hongwanji school building in May 2012, saving
both buildings from further rain damage and helping make the facility ready for community use. Photo by Julia Neal
TESTIMONY ON THE CHARTER SCHOOL SATELLITE proposed by Hawai`i Academy of Arts & Science for Ka`u has been sent to the State Charter School Commission from several area residents. The commission is scheduled to meet on the matter this Thursday.
      Karen Wallis, a teacher at Na`alehu Elementary School, wrote that over the past few months there has been a lot of talk about a charter school that would be located at Pahala Hongwanji. She said the most frequent questions include: “Are renovations being done with the proper permits in place? This is a very old building; was it cleared of asbestos and lead paint? What happened to letting Boys and Girls Club use it?” She wrote that Boys & Girls Club helped work on the building.
      “What about a bus for student transportation?”
AmeriCorps volunteers clean and organize the school office years ago.
Olson Trust promised money for re-roofing, which was recently completed
with volunteers from `O Ka`u Kakou and Pahala Hongwanji.
Photo by Julia Neal
      Wallis contended that “Pahala doesn’t have the population to support another middle school, so how will students from other areas get there? Has food service been contracted, or is there a cafeteria in place with appropriate staff to man it? Are those jobs posted? How do they plan to service special education students? What about English language learners?”
      Wallis wrote that “there have been community meetings to discuss plans and answer questions, but the first one held was on May 25th when Kua O Ka La Charter School was considering the site and, for whatever reason, they chose not to proceed. The following month HAAS picked up the project, and they plan to open in less than three months. The consideration and time being put into this new school is disappointing.” Wallis said the information given out “is not consistent,” and “the question of which grades will be serviced has been frequently brought up at meetings.
      “I believe Ka`u needs more choices, but do it right. What happens to students who sign up for this rush job and it fails? DOE starts their schools on Aug. 6, and according to their website, this school plans to open on the 16th. What if they don’t have the turnout needed to open? Will they just drop those students back into public schools two weeks behind their class? What is the contingency plan?” asked Wallis.
      Wallis wrote that “Ka`u parents need choices, but they need good choices. Potential students deserve more due diligence on HAAS’s part. Hawai`i has some excellent charter schools, but they didn’t magically come together, community members planned and prepared for them. I support many of the concepts being proposed, but the way this school is coming into being raises too many concerns,” Wallis wrote.
Steve Hirakami, of HAAS, which proposes
a satellite for Ka`u.
Photo from www.stevehirakami.com
       Steve Hirakami, who heads Hawai`i Academy of Arts & Science, wrote to The Ka`u Calendar newspaper with some history about HAAS and the plan for Ka`u: “Hawai`i Academy of Arts & Science is a well established charter school in Pahoa. In September 2005, HAAS was the first non-virtual school (at that time there was only Myron B. Thompson Academy in operation) to present a virtual component of its school to the Board of Education. We were approved, and we found a nice spot at the Kurtistown Hongwanji. It was our on-line center of operations for two years and when the program expanded, we moved the operations back to Pahoa. We currently service every corner of the Big Island with our two virtual programs one for K-6 and the other Grades 7-12. With the incredible need for educational options in Ka`u, and the expansion of our virtual program, we were seeking commercial space or a church organization to house our program. This is not a new charter school. This should not be compared to a ‘brick and mortar’ school, where all of the students are required to attend every day with provision of food and transportation. Instead, this program is to facilitate learning for self-directed learners who can work at their own pace and involve them in a specific career path.”
      Ross Rammelmeyer, of Volcano, is one of the site organizers for the Pahala Learning Academy. He submitted testimony to the State Public Charter School Commission: “The program will initially serve about 35 students from Pahala all the way to Ocean View (one of the most educationally underserved in the state) in grades six and seven using a combination of on line instructional programs as well as attendance at the Pahala site for the vital interaction with fully accredited, skilled and highly motivated instructors.
AmeriCorps volunteers worked on cleaning up the schoolhouse and
removing broken glass several years ago. Photo by Julia Neal
      “The plot’s zoning, unchanged since plantation days, remains agricultural, and later residential. We are aware of no State/County Plans affecting this request, nor Zoning, Special Management Area or the status of the Community Development Plan affecting the area of the plot. The surrounding area is residential and mostly fallow agricultural land.
      “School traffic on days which the institution operates will be increased by at most two trips (one coming and one going) by a single 14-passenger van and a trip each way by all or some of the few faculty members.
      “The school’s plot is accessed by a single … public residential road in excellent condition. There are no residences fronting on that road. The nearest intersection on the road provides access to two dead-end streets, neither which, logically, will bear traffic to or from the school. Use of the road to gain access to the subject property has never been contested.
      “All utilities to the school building pre-exist. There will be negligible, but as yet unmeasured, increases during school days due to the use of existing drinking water and a concomitant urine production, impacting on sewer usage.
      “To the best of our knowledge, the requested use will be consistent with the general purpose of the zoned district, the intent and purpose of the zoned district, the intent and purpose of the zoning code and the County General Plan.
      “We have no reason to believe that the resumption of use of the school building to educate our children will not unreasonably burden public agencies in providing roads and street, sewers, water, drainage, or police and school services fire protection. We will increase the provision of community education services.
      “We further believe that the requested future use of the existing facilities will not be detrimental to the public welfare nor cause substantial adverse impact on the community character or to the surrounding properties. Quite the converse, our use of the school building will have substantial positive impact on the community and its most precious asset, our children.”
      Rammelmeyer also wrote about the infrastructure: “The building is located on generally flat land. It is served with an on-site driveway leading to a concrete parking area accommodating 24 parking spaces adjacent to the school building (which should be more than adequate as none of the students will be old enough to be licensed drivers). Other structures on the plot include the church structure of the Hongwanji Mission itself which will be used as the hub of an on line virtual campus and the residence of the mission’s former resident priest, now occupied by the prospective headmistress of the State Public Charter School.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono seated next to Rep. Doris Matsui during a meeting
between President Obama and the Congressional Asian Pacific American
Caucus at the White House. Photo from Office of Sen. Mazie Hirono
SEN. MAZIE K. HIRONO MET WITH President Barack Obama at the White House during a meeting with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. According to a statement from her office, Hirono specifically spoke up in support of initiatives that help Native Hawaiians. Other issues addressed by CAPAC included issues like education and immigration reform that impact Hawai`i and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities across the country. 
      “I was pleased to have this opportunity to speak with President Obama about critical issues that are facing Hawai`i, our country and Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” Hirono said. “During our group’s discussion, I asked the President to support Native Hawaiians, who are often overlooked when we talk about the AAPI community. The President committed to continue working closely with me and the rest of our Hawai`i delegation on issues important to Native Hawaiians. He also committed to continue pushing for immigration reform – a mobilizing issue for the AAPI community.”
      Hirono seated next to Rep. Doris Matsui during a meeting between President Obama and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at the White House.

HAWAI`I COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT reports a double-digit decrease in the number of DUI arrests. So far this year, there have been 678 DUI arrests compared with 762 during the same period last year, a decrease of 11 percent. 
      Decreases in major accidents and traffic fatalities also occurred. There have been 760 major accidents so far this year compared with 813 during the same period last year, a decrease of 6.5 percent. There have been 19 traffic fatalities on Hawai`i Island compared with 20 during the same period last year, a decrease of five percent.

HAWAI`I COUNTY COUNCIL MEETS TOMORROW at 9 a.m. in Kona. Ka`u residents can participate from Ocean View Community Center’s remote videoconferencing site.
      Agendas are available at hawaiicounty.gov.

KA`U AGRICULTURAL WATER COOPERATIVE DISTRICT meets tomorrow at 4 p.m. at Royal Hawaiian Orchards Field Office in Pahala. For more information, call Jeff McCall at 928-6456.

KEIKI OF ALL AGES ARE INVITED to join park rangers and explore Palm Trail by GPS and compass at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park’s Kahuku Unit Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. At least one adult family member or adult group leader must accompany the children. Enjoy a free lunch and participate in cultural craft demonstrations. Bring a refillable water bottle and sturdy hiking shoes. Registration is required for this free event. Call 985-6019. 

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

ALSO SEE KAUCALENDAR.COM AND FACEBOOK.COM/KAUCALENDAR.

                                                PUBLIC NOTICES



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