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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 8, 2001

Officials say some facilities inadequate

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua‘i Bureau

KAPA'A, Kaua'i — Charter schools that fail to show that their facilities are adequate will face revocation of their charters, state schools chief Paul LeMahieu said last night.

Board of Education members, at a meeting yesterday at Kapa'a Public Library, expressed concern over several issues involving charter schools, including the safety of their facilities.

Board member Lex Brodie said he recently visited one of the state's five operating charter schools and found conditions generally unacceptable.

Other members said they had seen situations where students were drinking bottled water poured into their hands, and where doors failed to open outward for quick emergency exit.

"The board should look into charter schools," said board member Shannon Ajifu.

LeMahieu said his staff has similar concerns and has written each of the state's operating charter schools, asking that they show that they meet county building occupancy regulations.

"I am prepared to recommend to the board revoking the charter" of schools that fail to show compliance, he said.

At least one charter school, the Waters of Life institution in Puna, Hawai'i, has no central facility and has some students meeting without most of the standard educational fare, such as school rooms, desks and chairs.

"There's nothing that looks like a school," LeMahieu said, although he added that this isn't necessarily a poor educational environment.

"There's nothing in the law that says it has to look like you think a school looks."

Although most are not yet operating, 17 schools have been issued charters, the first four of which received charters without having to show that they had a facility. More recently approved facilities had to be in place before charters were issued.

LeMahieu said that situation can put schools in a Catch-22, since they often can't get leases, grants and loans without a charter. He said he hopes Gov. Ben Cayetano signs a bill that would allow issuance of provisional charters.