School year ends with closures all over the state - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

School year ends with closures all over the state

Polly Phillips Polly Phillips
Sadie Phillips Sadie Phillips
Eric Guyett Eric Guyett
Jessica Austin Jessica Austin

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

LIHUE (KHNL) - With the end of the school year upon us, some schools will end up closing for good. One private Kauai school that's shutting its doors after 15 years.

The economy has forced three schools to write their final chapters this year. Kauai's Kula School is one of them. It graduates its final class Saturday. We spoke to students and administrators there in this exclusive story.

For 15 years, Kula School has been nurturing the minds of more than a thousand students. But the nurturing stops after Saturday's graduation.

"It's been a slow decline and the this last year, it was just definitely noticeable," Kula principal Polly Phillips said. "With the economy, we've had a lot of families pull out and then it's hard when you're with small numbers to sustain programs."

Sadie Phillips is one of eight students that make up the last graduating class.

"It's really sad to see it go, it's been part of my life for so long and my brother was going here and he was hoping to graduate here and now he has to look for another school," Phillips said.

And so does Eric Guyett. He says he'll miss the intimate feel of the school.

"When you go to a period with 10 students in the class and one teacher, you have a lot of personal time with the teacher," he said.

At one time, Kula School had more than a hundred students, today it's a different story, with less than half of that.

"I heard rumors that we might be the last graduating class and ever since 7th grade was dwindling the people that were going here, the tuition kept getting higher," Senior Jessica Austin said.

Even administrators knew at some point, this time would come.

"It wasn't like it was a big surprise, we've been going through hoops trying to really just change our whole outlook, trying to figure out how we can make this work, look at different options," Principal Phillips said.

But the options ran out for Kula and these other schools: Molokai Mission, High School of the Pacific and Wailupe Elementary on Oahu, which is the lone public school to close.

"I never say never, it's like there's hopefully something here that is beneficial to the community and I sure would like to see something," Principal Phillips said.

For now though, it leaves about a hundred students across the state looking for another school.

The Board of Education is currently looking into 20 groups of schools across the state that may need to be consolidated. Much like the case of Wailupe Elementary students going to nearby Aina Haina Elementary.

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