Community strengthens 'labor of love'
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Loren Moreno
A lot has changed since January when Innovations Public Charter School on the Big Island moved into a renovated house and two "cathedral tents" in Kailua, Kona.
Two brand-new buildings are expected to be completed by the time students arrive back on campus from summer break on July 25, said school director Barbara Woerner.
"Each classroom will have 1,000 square feet plus a 400-square-feet covered lanai for projects. So we're very excited and the buildings look beautiful," Woerner said. "To finally have this campus is very exciting for all of us."
As a start-up charter school, Innovations had to find money to pay for facilities. So when the school was established in 2001 by a group of five former Department of Education teachers, it shared facilities with another public school in Kona.
Innovations soon outgrew the limited space and eventually established its own campus. That was in January.
The school obtained grant money and a commercial bank loan to pay for the design and construction of the classroom buildings. Woerner said the buildings were designed to be inviting and not "institutional-like." Each building will house two classes.
"We need a third building, but we can only build what we can afford," Woerner said. For now the tents will remain on campus and will house general classes as well as art, music and drama classes.
Innovations is a "labor of love by the community," Woerner said. Community volunteers, donations from local hardware stores, help from Hawai'i County and parents all made the Innovations campus possible, she said.
But students and families were never attracted to the school for its buildings. Innovations' curriculum is what has people talking.
The school, which serves students in grades 1-6, was recognized by the state Department of Education as a Distinguished School in 2004 for its soaring test scores.
Woerner credits the "thematic, student-centered approach" to curriculum for the school's success.
"Teachers talk to students about what they are interested in and what they like to learn more about," Woerner said. "Kids are given (the) opportunity to do their own individual inquiries, become independent learners and researchers."
Innovations is in high demand, Woerner said. The wait list is up to more than 250 students, and parents are putting in requests for a preschool and even a middle school.
"This school, it's a community project," she said. "We wouldn't be here without all the community support we've received."
Reach Loren Moreno at firstname.lastname@example.org.