KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Principal Peter Zawot went door to door at Damien Memorial School Friday morning, telling students the big news.
"We want to do something new, something exciting. We are going to begin to accept girls, grades six through nine," he said.
The announcement drew smiles and shrugs and cheers.
"It's a new day. It's a new generation. It's a new Damien," school president Bernard Ho said.
He said declining enrollment coupled with five-year expansion plans were reasons for transforming Damien from an all-boy's campus to a school for boys and girls. Damien will eventually add classrooms and a multi-purpose building.
"We're very confident that our programs that are being offered will be applicable curriculum to the ladies," Ho said.
The change will start with middle school, then add a grade annually. By 2015 the entire campus will be coed.
"I saw it coming. It was going to have to happen sooner or later," student Dominique Arakaki said.
"I think it's a good thing because the kids will be more serious in class and won't play around," student Dylan Flores said.
Damien was founded in 1962. It bears Saint Damien's name. The private school is part of the ILH. At first, girl's sports will be limited to the Catholic School League.
"It'll give us that year and a-half to find out what sports we do want to offer for girls," Zawot said. "We do want to give them as great an experience as they can have because it is their high school and it's important to them."
Ho said the campus can comfortably add 100 girls to grades six through nine without hiring more teachers
"We'd like to keep the classroom ratio fairly moderate, about 20 or 25 at the most," Ho said.
The new age for Damien begins next fall.
The school motto "Viriliter Age" means "Act Manfully." Eventually, just like the student body, the slogan will change, too.