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Oʻahu charter school faces closure after commission vote, long string of violations

kamalani academy.jpg
Kamalani Academy

The State Public Charter Schools Commission voted 5-1 on Wednesday not to renew Kamalani Academy's contract, which would force the Wahiawa public charter school to shut down at the end of this school year.

The decision comes after a long string of disputes and violations about Kamalani Academy over the last two years.

During the pandemic, Kamalani Academy experienced a surge in student enrollment because it promoted a remote learning platform and provided students with laptops. However, the academy was using the Utah-based Harmony Educational Services, which wasn't approved by the commission.

The commission issued a notice to the school because it violated its charter with the state by not going through the process to amend. As a result, 183 students were struck from the school's roll.

Last year, two dozen parents submitted complaints to the commission that the school was refusing to release their children to attend other schools. Kamalani Academy leaders said those students didn't return the laptops they were provided, but parents claim it was their understanding the laptops were theirs to keep.

Commission staff investigated the complaints in June 2022.

It issued another notice to Kamalani Academy regarding inaccuracies with the school's projected student enrollment, the state of student records, the governance of the school and the release and withdrawal of students.

In October, the commission issued a more severe notice to the school, restating the issues the commission identified in its June notice.

Kamalani Academy's contract expires on June 30, 2023, meaning it will have to shut its doors for good if an appeal is unsuccessful.

In a letter to parents, academy board Chair Kuʻuipo Murray said the school is working with the state attorney general to appeal the decision. In addition, the letter asked parents to "stop the spread of rumors by providing accurate information to those who inquire."

"The Kamalani Governing Board made decisions during the pandemic to continue educating students virtually without receiving state funding," Murray said in the letter.

"We stand by these decisions because we believed they were in the best interest of our students and Hawaiʻi's community. Had we not made these decisions, we would not be in the situation we are in today."

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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