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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 7, 2008

School zones to divide 'Ewa

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser West O'ahu Writer

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'EWA BEACH Ocean Pointe residents are happy but Ewa By Gentry residents are unhappy with the Department of Education's reconfigured boundaries for Keone'ula and 'Ewa Beach elementary schools.

The two are the largest development communities in 'Ewa.

Under the plan unveiled last night at the Keone'ula Elementary cafeteria, families living in Ewa By Gentry neighborhoods who now attend Keone'ula will have their children assigned to the older 'Ewa Beach Elementary about one mile makai.

Meanwhile, all Ocean Pointe neighborhoods with the exception of the Kealohi Kai subdivision will be attending Keone'ula Elementary.

Mamo Carreira, the Department of Education's district superintendent for the area, said the change is necessary to address overcrowding at Keone'ula, which opened in January 2007 and already has 782 students, over its capacity of 739. 'Ewa Beach Elementary, meanwhile, is under capacity.

Students already attending Keone'ula can choose to stay there until they finish fifth grade, Carreira said. And those now living within the existing Keone'ula boundaries who are expecting to enter the school next year will be allowed to do so if they enroll by May 30.

After May 30, new pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students living outside the Keone'ula boundaries will attend 'Ewa Beach Elementary, Carreira said.

Siblings of current Keone'ula students but who live in areas outside the new boundaries can attempt to join their brothers and sisters through the standard geographic exception process, Carreira said.

Many of those parents who have objected to having their boundaries switched from Keone'ula to 'Ewa Beach Elementary have raised concerns about the disparity in physical facilities, noting that 'Ewa Beach Elementary is decades old while Keone'ula is hailed as state of the art.

Carreira said that scholastically, the two schools' test scores are comparable. Keone'ula scores a little higher in reading, while 'Ewa Beach Elementary scores slightly higher in math.

Carreira said a number of improvements are being done at 'Ewa Beach Elementary, including landscaping, painting and "cooling measures" such as ceiling fans. No air conditioners are planned, however.

Improvements are also being made at Keone'ula. Three portable classrooms are expected to be installed on the campus in time for the 2008-2009 school year, Carreira said.

Proponents of Ewa by Gentry residents are not happy with the change, which means all future students living in Gentry subdivisions west of Fort Weaver Road and makai of the Coral Creek Golf Course will attend 'Ewa Beach Elementary, which is farther away than Keone'ula.

Suzanne Alawa, executive director of the Ewa By Gentry Community Association, was furious at the DOE.

"This is absolutely irresponsible and criminal," Alawa said. "How do they justify busing these children away from a school they can walk to? Somebody paid somebody something to do this one. I think they owe the people who live here a great explanation."

Alawa said that DOE officials promised at a meeting a year ago that students living in Ewa By Gentry's western communities would be allowed to attend Keone'ula.

State Rep. Rida Cabanilla, D-42nd (Waipahu, Honouliuli, 'Ewa), was also unhappy with the DOE's new map for the area.

"This maneuver is not only counterproductive to logic and common-sense reasoning, but also serves to compound the traffic problem we have on Fort Weaver Road," Cabanilla said, in a statement.

Cabanilla said many Ewa By Gentry residents were told when they purchased their new homes that their children would be allowed to go to Holomua Elementary, which is on the east side of Fort Weaver Road. They were then told their children would instead be attending Keone'ula, she said, and now they're being asked to relocate again.

Ocean Pointe residents who spoke at the DOE's public hearing in March voiced similar concerns.

Both Alawa and Cabanilla said the DOE was pandering to Ocean Pointe residents and Ocean Pointe's developer, Haseko Inc.

But Carreira pointed out that the new configuration calls for all students living in Haseko's upcoming 2,500-unit Hoakalei project, to the southwest of Keone'ula, to be assigned to go to 'Ewa Beach Elementary.

There are seven elementary schools in the 'Ewa-'Ewa Beach area. The others are Pohakea, Kaimiloa and Iroquois Point elementaries, all of which serve primarily the older 'Ewa Beach and Iroquois Point communities, as well as the 'Ewa Elementary School which serves primarily those in 'Ewa Villages and the Ewa By Gentry communities west of Fort Weaver Road and mauka of Coral Creek Golf Course.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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