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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 30, 2006

New school aims to retain intimacy

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

Glenn Medeiros (yes, the former pop star) teaches second-graders at Island Pacific Academy in Kapolei.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Where: 909 Haumea St., Kapolei, next to the regional library

Phone: 674-3523

Headmaster: Daniel E. White

School nickname: Navigators

School colors: Blue, silver and gold

Web address: www.islandpacificacademy.com

History: By its first day of class on Sept. 13, 2005, the school had earned interim accreditation from the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Enrollment: 382 in grades pre-kindergarten through eight; projected enrollment of 560 in fall 2006 in grades pre-kindergarten through nine.

Computers: A tablet personal computer for every student in the middle and upper school; four desktops in every elementary school classroom; two carts of laptops that move from room to room; "smart boards" in every room in the middle and upper school building and five rooms in the elementary school building.

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The opening of Island Pacific Academy's new upper-grades building in the fall and the entry of its first high school class marks the peak of the school's rapid growth during its two years of existence.

Nearly 400 students are enrolled at the Kapolei private elementary and middle school that is growing as fast as Kapolei itself, said Daniel White, Island Pacific Academy headmaster.

Originally conceived to be a small, community school, it has outgrown its facilities, with middle school art classes held in the second-floor lobby and pupils lining the walls during recess finishing assignments on their school-assigned laptop computers.

Each grade, under the original school plans, would have two sections. But "demand from the community made it so we actually had to create a third section of kindergarten in response," White said.

For each year to follow, Island Pacific will continue to add a section to each grade level to meet enrollment demand.

"When you think about the ultimate size of enrollment, you then have to balance that against the needs of the community, and that is really what grows us," White said.

With the school's first high school class arriving on campus in the fall, White said, Island Pacific is trying to use a method of "controlled growth" to avoid overburdening staff and facilities. Rather than enrolling all four grades of high school students, Island Pacific is starting with ninth grade only and will add another grade level each year.

The school is expected to reach full enrollment at its elementary, middle and high school in the 2009 school year, White said.

Also by that time, each grade level will have three sections of 20 students. White said that is still small enough to maintain a sense of intimacy. The school is not willing to grow to four sections per grade level, he said.

"One of the things that I value, and I think people value about this school, is intimacy," White said. "Parents want to feel like the needs of their children, and their needs as parents, are well attended to."

Island Pacific's sense of community also helps to instill the values of the school in students, White said.

On the first day of each week, students gather for an assembly in the school's foyer a staircase that doubles as a stage in the center of the schoolhouse. It is there where teachers reinforce the school's values.

"I want the kids to understand the power of human kindness and to exhibit a generosity of spirit. I figure if I put all those together ... I've set them up for life," White said.

What are you most proud of? "The joy among students, staff and parents that manifests itself on a daily basis," White said.

Best-kept secret: "How much of our success is due to tireless parent and grandparent volunteers," he said.

Everybody at our school knows: "Miss Kerri" Kerri Vincent admissions assistant, receptionist, registrar and surrogate mom to 382 kids, White said.

Our biggest challenge: "Maintaining a sense of intimacy in the midst of explosive growth," White said.

What we need: "A gym and an endowment, in that order," White said.

Special events: Second annual auction party, April 22; the school's second summer school beginning June 19; the dedication of the middle and upper school building in July; Founders Day, Sept. 13.

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.