By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau
MAKAKILO After holding several public meetings on reassigning elementary school students in Makakilo, Leeward District Superintendent Hazel Sumile faces a tough decision about which students will be moved from the popular Mauka Lani Elementary and sent to the less crowded Barbers Point Elementary.
She said the Department of Education will redraw school district boundaries, busing students about six miles to Barbers Point, but no final decision has been made yet on what area they will come from.
Sumile said parents, teachers and residents have offered many suggestions to ease crowding at Mauka Lani. "We will decide by the end of January and will hold public meetings after the decision has been made," Sumile said. "We are looking at a long-term plan, not just the short term."
Mauka Lani, which has three permanent buildings on its 7-acre campus, has about 700 students, well over its capacity of 661. Seventeen portable buildings are on campus to accommodate more students, but they take up valuable playground area.
While Makakilo continues to grow, Barbers Point has been drained of students since the naval air station there closed in 1999. Sumile said Barbers Point has a capacity of 790 and an enrollment of only 270.
Sumile said the options include: reassigning students from Makakilo and Honokai Hale who already ride buses to school; sending only 4th and 5th graders to Barbers Point; building a new school in upper Makakilo; or converting Mauka Lani to multi-tracking.
Multi-tracking allows schools to cope with more students by dividing them into groups, with each beginning classes at a different time of year. One group is on vacation at any given time.
State Sen. Brian Kanno, who lives in Makakilo, said that after attending a meeting on Dec. 18, he believes the only real options are to reassign students living in either the Westhills area of Makakilo where new homes are being built or from the homes above the Makakilo Recreation Center.
"Having your school district changed is very upsetting for a lot of people," Kanno said. "Mauka Lani is an exceptional school."
But Sumile insists that the decision, which will be put into effect next fall, has not been made.
"No. No. No. No. No. Weve told them that was only two of the possibilities," she said. "Everything is still on the table."
Megan Olson, a Mauka Lani PTA board member, said busing is just a short-term solution to crowding.
"Once Kalaeloa (Barbers Point) is built up again, then they will have to bus our kids back up to Makakilo," Olson said. "If they are looking long term, I dont see how they can reasonably say busing is the answer." Sumile said crowding is expected to worsen as Makakilo continues to grow.
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