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Kauaʻi North Shore Namahana School gets green light

KILAUEA — The Hawai‘i State Public Charter School Commission Thursday granted its charter approval to Namahana School during the commission’s meering in Honolulu.

“Today, the Hawai‘i State Charter School Commission granted a conditional charter approval to Namahana School that promises to fill the need of getting its own middle and high school for the North Shore community,” said Kapua Chandler, one of the Namahana School leaders.

“The commission’s conditional charter approval fills that need to provide a highly innovative new approach to education. Our students will be grounded in place, community and culture, and design their own personal learning journeys with an emphasis on solving real-world problems for Kaua‘i and beyond,” she said.

Chandler said Namahana School was one of only two applicants granted conditional approval from 12 submissions made last year.

“The last time a charter school was approved was five year ago due in part to COVID-19 delays,” she said.

The commission approval said the Namahana School is a visionary charter school poised to fill a longstanding need for tuition-free education beyond the sixth grade on Kaua‘i’s North Shore.

Currently, all children in the region must travel to Kapa‘a Middle School or beyond to access public education following elementary school, the commission said in a release. This involves commutes that can add up to 1.5 hours each way, as well as restricting opportunities for them and their families to engage with sports and other school activities.

“This moment has been years in the making, and for everyone who has been working tirelessly to make this school a reality, it feels like the stars are truly aligning in support of our vision,” said Lori Mull, education chair of the Kaua‘i North Shore Community Foundation.

“Without the tremendous generosity of Joan Porter and her late husband, Bill, this dream might have remained beyond our reach. They understood years ago how badly our community needed a school that could keep children and families connected to each other, and to the North Shore itself. We are immensely grateful to them, and all the other people who stepped up to get us this far.”

Namahana School started in 2015 as a KNSCF initiative that served as the project incubator. The organization later secured a 99-year land license for eight acres at the Wai Koa plantation from Porter, and progressed to raise more than $3 million for preliminary costs associated with the development of the charter school.

The application to the Hawai‘i State Public Charter School Commission was filed in March.

“As a Kilauea Elementary School alumnus and lineal descendant of Halele‘a and Ko‘olau, I am humbled and proud to be addressing a decades-long education need for our North Shore community,” Chandler said.

“My dad and his generation had to make the lengthy commute, riding multiple buses due to the small one-way bridges on the North Shore, to get to school from Wainiha. Then, my brothers’ generation continued to have to do the same, and now, I am happy to see that my neices and nephews will finally have an alternative — Namahana School. We have an outpouring of community support, and it is only with that support that I am able to continue our pono work to bring our community a pono public middle and high school. Eo Namahana!”

Namahana School plans to welcome its first cohort of students in grades seven and eight in the fall of 2025.

With the commission’s conditional approval, Namahana School will enter into a two-year pre-opening charter school contract with the commission that will contain pre-opening assurances to be met during the start-up period.

Once these assurances are met, a five-year charter contract will be awarded, and the school would then incorporate a new grade each year until it reaches its target capacity of 360 students in grades seven through 12.

The Namahana School’s fundraising efforts are being spearheaded by the Namahana Education Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated solely to supporting Namahana School. The group will be organizing a public community event later in the summer to share the progress of the school, including a timeline of the next steps and opportunities for community involvement.

“Now that we have our conditional charter approval, our next challenge is raising the funds to build a campus that reflects Namahana’s vision and values,” said Jessica Kaui Fu, the chair of the Namahana Education Foundation. “We are grateful to KNSCF for their tireless efforts and their initial funding for the Namahana Educational Foundation. As has been the case every step of the way, we know that we can only meet our next goals with the full support and participation of our community.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or
Source: The Garden Island

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