Private schools making changes in bad economy - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Private schools making changes in bad economy

Sister Joan of Arc Souza Sister Joan of Arc Souza
Hawaii Mission Academy Hawaii Mission Academy
K-8 Principal John Mooy K-8 Principal John Mooy

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The down economy is not only creating a cash crunch for Hawaii public schools, many small private schools are struggling to survive.

Recently Word of Life and Holy Trinity Schools closed up.  Many others have to make historic changes.

After 86 years as an all girls school St. Francis School has started allowing boys in to boost enrollment revenue.

"A girl's school admitting boys, some of the alumni weren't too happy but you've got to do it. You have to look and see what does this decision mean two or three or four years down the road from now," said Sister Joan of Arc Souza, St. Francis Head of School.

In addition they opened up a new elementary school.  The changes have added 130 students so far.  They also froze employee pay and froze tuition to keep kids from transferring.  Had they not made these moves they could be closed right now.

"I'm afraid we might be on the same page with Word of Life or Holy Trinity because being a girl's school 6 through 12 only, I don't think fit any real need in today's society," said Sister Souza.  "You can look back, Monday morning quarterbacking and say we made the right decision."

Hawaiian Mission Academy has been on Makiki Street since 1920 so they don't have to worry about real estate expenses.  Yet enrollment numbers have dropped to 105 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and since you can't just erase debt they've had to be creative.

"We're trying to make enough money to stay afloat," said John Mooy, Hawaiian Mission Academy K-8 Principal.  "We aren't doing furlough Fridays but we have to do fundraising and jog-a-thons, rummage sales, whatever it takes to do our best to raise the funds for our tuition."

They've had to make more drastic cuts as well.  In the last three years they had to let three out of their nine teachers go.

"It's the least fun thing I believe I've ever done," said Mooy.

That also meant they combined grades so kindergarten and first grades are in one class, second and third are in another and so on.

"In the elementary grades we can do that and not sacrifice the quality of our education at all," said Mooy.

Financially they're breaking even, vowing not to be a failing school.

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