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Wahiawa charter school’s decision on student laptops angers some parents

Parents say the school is reneging on a promise to let the students keep distance learning devices.
Published: May. 31, 2022 at 10:42 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 1, 2022 at 3:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A public charter school in Wahiawa is facing backlash from some parents who were told laptops provided to students as part of a remote learning program would need to be returned.

The Public Charter School Commission is looking into the concerns.

Parent Kelly Olayan said the school is reneging on a promise to let the students keep digital devices.

She said the school won’t transfer students’ records until the devices are returned.

“They’re holding my kids hostage,” said Olayan. “And I’m not able to further educate them until they release them, basically.”

Olayan said if she doesn’t get her kids’ records from Kamalani Academy before next week, they’ll lose their spots at an unrelated summer school.

She added that the school wants back the laptops provided to students through an agreement with its virtual learning vendor, Harmony Educational Services.

Parents say that wasn’t the deal.

“It was always promoted to us as everything would be ours to keep as long as we were submitting the required assignments and doing the check ins,” said Kristina Goetzman, who has two kids attending Kamalani.

The school says that simply isn’t the case.

“All families were notified by our school that all technology had to be returned, as we are financially responsible for that technology,” said Kamalani Principal Amanda Fung.

In a statement, she also said:

“Kamalani Academy will not release students whose parents refuse to return or pay for technology that KA will be financially responsible for. All students who have returned technology to the school or located for it were released to attend whatever school they chose. KA also had students transition to in person learning for the 22-23 school year and also returned their technology.”

Records shared in a parent’s testimony to the State Public Charter School Commission show parents got conflicting messages.

The vendor said the computers were theirs to keep, but a school email said they must be returned.

About halfway through the school year, SPCSC found Kamalani did not have the authority to contract with the virtual learning vendor so the school lost an opportunity to receive $1.4 million in state funding.

“We shouldn’t be dragged in the mud along with everything that they’re doing,” said Olayan. ”They’re mismanaging.”

Last Thursday, Fung told the commission she’s working with the State Attorney General’s office to get the computers back.

Fung reminded commissioners that last summer’s COVID surge complicated the fall semester.

The commission released the following statement.

“We have received six complaints thus far and are processing the complaints through our complaints process. We are awaiting a response from the school governing board regarding this matter.”

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