Down economy forces Holy Trinity School to close - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Down economy forces Holy Trinity School to close

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

KULIOUOU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just weeks after Word of Life Academy announced it's closing, another small private school in East Oahu suffers the same fate.

It's the domino effect from the crash in the economy, with parents losing jobs and no money to pay for tuition, enrollment is way down at Holy Trinity School, and it can no longer afford to stay open.


Late Monday, word came down. Parents and faculty learned this school year will be their last.

From Sky News Now's view, it's a tiny school.

But in parents eyes, Holy Trinity has a big place in their hearts.

"It's like a piece of our lives missing," said Christi Aiwohi.

Aiwohi is an alum. Her daughter is a student. Their family runs four generations deep at the Catholic school in Kuliouou.

"To have my grandchildren here is really something for me so I'm very sad," said Aiwohi's sister, Ardi Vesnefski, also an alum.

"It's difficult for me. It breaks my heart to see the school not able to continue," said Fr. Gary Secor, Pastor of Holy Trinity Church.

Fr. Secor made the call to close the school. He says enrollment continues to drop - 68 students this year, 73 last year, and around 90 the year before. What's more is that over half of the families at Holy Trinity are on financial aid.

"We borrowed money, almost $500,000 total over the past several years and we thought this year we would break even," said Fr. Secor.

Instead, the school has fallen deeper in debt.

Signs of trouble date back several years. In 2008, Holy Trinity almost shut down. The award-winning school launched a campaign to try and lure more kids. Although the economy kept enrollment on the decline, Holy Trinity has managed to survive, until now.

Just weeks before, Word of Life Academy announced its closure. Patricia Matanza has been teacher there for nine years, and her son is a student.

"It's difficult to hear that but I think we all have peace that we're going to continue and our lives don't end here," said Matanza.

It's a sentiment echoed at Holy Trinity. When asked what it would take to save the school?

"I really couldn't put a number on it but I suppose if someone were to give me a million dollars or well over several hundred thousand dollars to do a lot of things, maybe that would help us to consider continuing on," said Fr. Secor.

But reality says otherwise.

"It's sad but sometimes things happen that you can't control," said Patricia Dau, an alum who was in Holy Trinity School's first graduating class, and is now the parish secretary.

Layoffs are in store - about a dozen teachers and staff at Holy Trinity School, and 20 or so at Word of Life Academy.

The closure comes just as Holy Trinity celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Fr. Secor says the closure is strictly financial, and is not a reflection of Holy Trinity School's academic performance.

In fact, the Catholic school just won the prestigious, Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Innovations in Education award this year. It's a national award that only goes to 12 schools per year.


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