Lahainaluna boarders program survives plan for funding
By BRIAN PERRY
LAHAINA — The Lahainaluna High School boarders program survived in the Legislature's budget for the next fiscal year, but its future remains uncertain with Gov. Linda Lingle still having 45 days to take action on the lawmakers' spending plan.
But West Maui Sen. Roz Baker and Rep. Angus McKelvey expressed confidence last week that the 150-year-old boarders' program would continue.
Baker, who also represents South Maui, said more work needs to be done to convince state education policymakers that the school's boarding program isn't just a luxury and a sentimental tradition.
The program has turned lives around for students, teaching them time management, discipline and the value of hard work, she said.
"Some of these kids didn't have that," Baker said. "They learn really good life skills as a boarder."
McKelvey affirmed the importance of preserving the program. "The program needs support. It needs innovation," he said. "You can't pull the rug out from (under) these kids."
McKelvey and Baker said they want to be proactive and work with the West Maui community and others to support the boarders program.
McKelvey said the program can "expand and take it to the next level" by developing into a venue for agricultural and renewable energy studies.
The program's costs could be offset with support from private entities, he said.
"Next year, we'll come to the Legislature and say, 'Here's our plan to reduce the state's costs … and really grow and improve this program.' "
He said state policymakers also shouldn't overlook that student labor saves the state the need to hire more than two dozen maintenance and custodial workers.
"These kids don't go (in the program) for free," he said. "They do work."
Baker said she also sees the potential to turn Lahainaluna into a learning center with an emphasis on sustainability and agriculture.
"It adds value to the experience at Lahainaluna," she said.