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Students, parents rally to save O'ahu charter school from shutdown

Kamalani Academy BOE.jpg
Casey Harlow / HPR
Students, parents and teachers of Kamalani Academy rallied outside the Queen Liliʻuokalani Building on Thursday to protest the state Public Charter School's decision to not renew the school's contract. If the decision is upheld by the state Board of Education, the school will have to close on June 30, 2023.

The state Public Charter School Commission recently voted not to extend its contract with Kamalani Academy, which ultimately forces the school to shut down indefinitely at the end of this school year.

Kamalani Academy parents, students and teachers all rallied outside an unrelated state Board of Education meeting Thursday to protest the decision.

"Last week on the commission meeting, our students weren't allowed to speak. They wanted no public testimony, no public input," said Amanda Fung, principal of Kamalani Academy.

Last week's decision came after years of violations and concerns raised by the commission. One complaint stemmed from the school's use of an unapproved virtual learning platform during the pandemic.

The commission also issued a notice 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.

Fung acknowledges the past two years have been a turbulent time for the school, but said they resolved each concern raised by the commission.

"This is their opportunity to show they have voice. They're the most important part of our school is the kids and I really want people to see that all these faces out here. These are people they affect," Fung said.

She added that the school has stopped its virtual learning program since, yet she said the commission continues to bring up the concern. "So we had provided so much documentation to show that we had complied. But they said that didn't matter."

Kamalani Academy is working with the state attorney general’s office to appeal the commission’s decision, but if the decision is upheld, the school will close and affect roughly 160 students from kindergarten to eighth grade.

"People make mistakes, schools make mistakes, but we're allowed to learn from those mistakes and grow from them," said Melanie Gonzalez, a parent of a fourth grader at Kamalani.

"Unfortunately Kamalani isn't being given that opportunity. And so even though mistakes were made, we're trying to fix them and our keiki's education is on the line here," Gonzalez said.

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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