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Kilauea gets new preschool classroom

KILAUEA — Several state officials were at Kilauea School on Thursday, where they visited a new preschool classroom set to open next month as part of Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke’s Ready Keiki initiative.

The state Legislature last year appropriated $200 million for Ready Keiki — a 10-year plan to build 450, 20-student preschool classrooms by 2032.

The Kilauea School’s preschool classroom is among the first wave of 11 schools across the state slated to open in August, as part of the initiative at a cost of roughly $500,000 per room, according to Luke.

“The fact that we were able to open this year after getting funding last year” is incredible, she said. “I mean in state government that’s near impossible,” said Luke at the school when thanking officials and philanthropic providers for their support.

Officials, including state Board of Education Chair Warren Haruki, state Department of Education Kaua‘i Complex Area Superintendent Daniel Hamada, state House Majority Leader Nadine Nakamura and state Senate President Ron Kouchi gathered outside of the front of the school, where they were led to the new classroom by Principal Fig Mitchell.

“It’s very exciting to have an opportunity to provide early education for our kids that would not have a chance to get it,” said Mitchell in an interview with The Garden Island during the event.

“I didn’t think was gonna happen this fast. It’s exciting,” he added.

Mitchell said he’s already received more than 25 applicants for the program, which will admit a maximum of 20 students.

Furniture had not yet been placed in the classroom on Thursday, but Luke unveiled free school backpacks that will be given to all children in the first 11 preschool classrooms.

“You’re seeing for the first time statewide what the kids are gonna see. So Kaua‘i is seeing firsthand what the kids around the state will get,” said Luke as she held up one of the backpacks containing two packs of crayons, a folder, a notebook, a water bottle, a blanket, antibacterial wet wipes and a counting book.

Both Luke and Kouchi said they were impressed by the renovated preschool classroom, noting that it was previously infested with termites and believed to have been unusable space.

“The contractors and facilities people at (the state Department of Education) have done a great job of creating what I think is going to be a really welcoming space for people to come in,” Kouchi said.

Kouchi also noted the state’s goal of free universal preschool education would create better educational outcomes for students, as well as help parents save money on child care.

“Parents can get back to the workforce sooner because their children are in pre-K. And they are putting $1,500 a month more into their pocket that they’re not paying for child care,” he said.

In an email after the event, Luke’s communications director Shari Nishijima said the Ready Keiki initiative aims to eventually add 330 preschool slots on Kaua‘i to meet the current demand.

According to Nishijima, there are 1,750 3- and 4-year-olds living on the island.

“Currently, there are about 1,420 existing pre-K seats, leaving a need for 330 seats to expand access on Kaua‘i,” she said.

Kouchi and other officials said the state is still strategizing about where it will place other future preschool classrooms around the county.

“The real challenge for us is to match up the (preschool) seats where the demand for the seats are,” Kouchi said.


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or
Source: The Garden Island

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