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Kamehameha Schools and Saint Mark Lutheran School are aligning resources to help Windward O‘ahu families acquire high-quality early childhood education for their keiki. The two-year partnership, which was announced on Aug. 26, 2019, will include up to $320,000 in tuition assistance from KS, research and data sharing between schools, and wrap-around support for families.

KS-Saint Mark Lutheran School partnership creates preschool opportunities in Windward O'ahu

Sept. 3, 2019

Contributed by Ben Balberdi

Kamehameha Schools and Saint Mark Lutheran School (SMLS) have aligned resources to offer high-quality early childhood education to families living in Windward O‘ahu – an effort that addresses the shortage of available preschool seats throughout Hawai‘i.

According to the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s 2017 Early Learning Needs Assessment for the state, there is only one licensed childcare seat available for every four children under the age of 6. The ratio for Native Hawaiian keiki is just one seat for every three from the Ko‘olau Region, which spans from Lāʻie to Makapu‘u.

“Saint Mark is honored and humbled to have forged this special collaboration with Kamehameha Schools,” said SMLS Head of School Dr. R. David Gaudi Jr. “This program is not only increasing access to early learning in Windward O‘ahu, but it is also providing many keiki with opportunities that they might not otherwise have ever been afforded.”

Announced on Aug. 27 at a ceremony held at SMLS’ new 11,000-square-foot Early Learning Center in Kāneʻohe, the two-year pact includes up to $320,000 in tuition assistance from KS, research and data sharing between schools, and wrap-around support for families.

“This early learning partnership helps our keiki to be ready for kindergarten so they are not left behind,” KS CEO Jack Wong said. “In our Native Hawaiian community, we look at education as our way of empowering keiki, that’s why this is so important to us. Our ability to see education not just on our campuses, but across entire communities is critical for our success and we are grateful for this opportunity to partner with Saint Mark Lutheran School to uplift all of our haumāna.”

SMLS is the latest example of KS’ commitment to creating educational systems change by collaborating with other institutions to offer high-quality learning opportunities to more Native Hawaiian learners.

“It’s inspiring to see different organizations come together for our keiki. When we work together like this, amazing things can happen for our community,” said Dr. Jamee Miller, KS regional director for Ko‘olau and Waialua.

KS provides early learning support through its 29 preschool sites statewide, which serve more than 1,600 learners annually. Further assistance is available through the Pauahi Keiki Scholars program – a need-based scholarship that provided upwards of $43 million in financial aid over the past three years to keiki attending approved, non-KS preschools throughout Hawaiʻi.

“As we work toward improving the well-being of the community, it’s crucial that we collaborate with others to create impact throughout a child’s educational journey,” Wong said. “Mahalo to Dr. Gaudi and the rest of the SMLS ʻohana for sharing in this commitment as we work together to nurture the next generation of ‘ōiwi leaders.”

The KS-SMLS partnership, which goes into effect for the 2019-20 school year, was featured last week on Hawai‘i News Now

To learn more about the SMLS Early Learning Program, visit

A partnership between Kamehameha Schools and Saint Mark Lutheran School was announced on Aug. 27. The collaboration, which goes into effect for the 2019-20 school year with tuition assistance from KS, will allow 20 Native Hawaiian learners to attend Saint Mark’s new 11,000-square-foot Early Learning Center.

Logan Yonehiro, a parent of a recent beneficiary of the KS-SMLS partnership, discussed his family’s struggles with finding early learning options. A 2012 graduate of KS Kapālama, Yonehiro recently earned his master’s degree with help from KS’ ʻImi Naʻauao scholarship.

KS CEO Jack Wong spent time getting to know Saint Mark’s youngest haumāna.

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