WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After months of evaluation, leaders of the state's second largest public charter school have decided to keep its struggling high school program open.
Kamaile Academy in Waianae has about 130 students in grades 9 to 12. School officials are hoping to fill another 70 seats.
The Hawaiian-focused charter school began accepting high school students eight years ago, but the program has struggled to keep students.
Those who attend, though, say they're glad they did.
"What I love about Kamaile is that we are all an ohana and our teachers really care for us. They take care of us," said eleventh grader Leea Boyce.
Last fall, school officials began reviewing data including graduation rates, academic progress and student attrition. They also held meetings to gather community input.
"It was difficult, it was challenging, very unsettling, but we're happy to hear that things have changed," said social studies teacher Michael Washington. "Now we're super excited because we get to continue where we left off, but we also get a chance to go back to the drawing board."
More than 80 percent of Kamaile Academy students are economically disadvantaged, and 54 percent identify as primarily Native Hawaiian.
"We recognize that while we have a lot of strong components of our high school and secondary program, that we need to continue to make some changes. We need to be able to effectively focus on all of our students," said vice principal Paul Kepka.
Kamaile Academy is now accepting applications for new high school students for the upcoming school year.