Two Hilo schools shared campus space for 30 years. Now one is being forced to move on

Two Hilo schools shared campus space for 30 years. Now one is being forced to move on
(Image: Hiehie Ilihia Gionson)
(Image: Hiehie Ilihia Gionson)

HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The students of Ka Umeke Kaeo Hawaiian Immersion Charter School sang their final songs of the school year Thursday.

But the annual end-of-year ceremony was marked with sadness: The school says it's packing up and being forced to move after 30 years.

"It was very emotional. I've been here for six years, but we've had kumu who've been here from the beginning," said Ka Umeke Kaeo principal, Olani Lilly.

The school shares a campus with Keaukaha Elementary, which says it needs to reclaim the three classrooms used by the Hawaiian charter school.

The charter is one of the first Hawaiian immersion charter schools in the state, and now has about 100 students in kindergarten to second grade.

But Keaukaha Elementary says its enrollment is growing, too.

"Our student enrollment has increased. Back in 2001 we had 280 students. We now have 429 students attending the school... We need to make sure we are taking care of our students," said Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz says Keaukaha's principal has been asking the charter school to leave since 2013, but the charter school says the state didn't do enough to help.

"So we put a lot of time efforts and resources into getting off and getting into a permanent site. Because of these road blocks, we were not able to meet the timeline," said Lilly.

"Our staff at Keaukaha has gone above and beyond to extending their services if you will to an outside entity," said Dela Cruz.

After years fighting for space at Keaukaha Elementary, Lilly acknowledges this battle is now over and the school is focusing on the future -- finding a permanent home for its haumana.

The charter school has found a temporary location at the University of Hawaii's Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center nearby. It hopes the Department of Hawaiian Homelands will provide access to a permanent home at Honohononui.

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