Close one school and open a door
Some things need replacing, even if they're not broken. The school complex in a neighborhood where enrollment has shrunk is one such thing.
Closing a school is never a happy process. Ask the families whose children attended Wailupe Valley Elementary School. It was a successful school; the fact that the population of young families was moving westward did not diminish that success. But it was a reality to confront — which the state Board of Education did, closing that campus a year ago.
Today, the school board sees another tough decision on the horizon concerning tiny Hale'iwa Elementary School. The state could save $720,000 a year in operating costs and scratch off some $4 million in backlogged repairs and maintenance if the school is consolidated with Waialua Elementary two miles away.
Hale'iwa is understandably chagrined by this, but at a time when the booming 'Ewa area is watching gleaming new schools spring up, a rural consolidation should be seen as an opportunity.
The money saved from the consolidation could be invested in better facilities for students at both schools. The enlarged elementary would need more space, which it could get by sending the sixth-graders to Waialua High and Intermediate School. More resources would finance renovations of both campuses to accommodate all of the students in better facilities.
The Board of Education has shown its willingness to close its smaller schools in Wailupe and, in 2006, at Ke'anae, and it needs to show that same resolve here. The focus should be on providing the best setting for learning. And aging classrooms, placed where fewer people now live, don't yield the educational opportunities these kids deserve.