ʻAha Pūnana Leo are experts at offering Hawaiian immersion education to preschoolers and do so at 11 other sites across Hawaiʻi. This Fall, Hāna families will have that option.
Kamehameha Schools recently approved a request to share KS preschool facilities in Hāna with ʻAha Pūnana Leo (ʻAPL). The request and transition of one of its two classrooms to Pūnana Leo will begin in Fall of 2016.
Hāna is a rural community with approximately 66% of the population being of Native Hawaiian ancestry. There currently is no Hawaiian immersion preschool, kula kaiapuni or Hawaiian-focused charter school in the community.
In 2014, a group of Hāna parents formed Nā Leo Kākoʻo Pūnana Leo o Hāna to initiate an immersion preschool and future Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HI-DOE) kaiapuni track at Hāna High and Elementary School. In response, ʻAha Pūnana Leo identified highly qualified staff from the community who are committed to opening a new classroom, with 22 keiki ages three and four, who have registered to enroll in ʻAPL’s new Preschool next school year.
Over the last two years, for a variety of reasons, enrollment at the KS Hāna Preschool had fallen short of the capacity of the site by as much as 25%. By partnering with ʻAha Pūnana Leo, the total number of available preschool seats at the site will remain at 40, while increasing the number of options for families in selecting a high quality, early childhood education program for their keiki.
The partnership advances four goals (one, two, three and five) within KS’ Strategic Plan 2020. It also represents a cross-functional process within KS to respond to keiki-first, community need intended to create a positive result.
The Network of Native Hawaiian Schools is enhanced by strategically collaborating with another preschool that shares KS’ vision and has a demonstrated commitment towards improving learner outcomes. This will be the first Hawaiian language immersion education program in Hāna, Maui.
By providing a space for Hawaiian immersion instruction, this in turn will help to cultivate a strong Native Hawaiian identity to instill confidence and resiliency in learners.
The shift will contribute to an improved educational system by embracing a communities’ collective effort to improve the educational system for Native Hawaiian learners. In this region with high need and broad community support and a commitment for positive change, this relationship reflects the shared values and commitment to education that KS seeks.
“As KS mobilizes in the Maui Region, its support of the Hawaiian language immersion education goals of the Hāna Hawaiian community, should show that KS is being responsive to Hāna’s self-expressed community needs,” shared KS Community Engagement and Resources vice president Kaʻeo Duarte.
“Supporting the wishes of the Hāna community to build Hawaiian language use in the younger generations will further strengthen the community’s efforts to remain a vibrant Hawaiian cultural kīpuka. This strength may also help to seed further cultural vibrancy beyond its palena (borders).”
“Moreover ʻAha Pūnana Leo Preschools are fully accredited and of high quality which would ensure that Hāna keiki completing the ʻAPL program are well prepared for kindergarten.”
Finally, this move helps KS optimize the strength, breadth and strategic alignment of resources. While KS Hāna preschool enrollment rates have declined in recent years, the demand for a Hawaiian language immersion preschool is on the rise.
ʻAha Pūnana Leo are experts at offering Hawaiian immersion education to preschoolers, as they demonstrate throughout Hawaiʻi at 11 other preschools. Supporting ʻAPL’s desire to meet the requests of the Hāna community is a prudent and efficient use of KS resources.
The shift allows for operational efficiency gains, which will continue to be monitored along with supply and demand for preschool opportunities over the next year. There are no plans to adjust staffing, though there will be exploration of how we can be creative and innovatively utilize additional capacity to strengthen a commitment to the needs of the community.
In addition to KS, there is a Hāna Infant and Toddler Program, which services keiki up to three years old and HI-DOE preschool for income-eligible four year olds located at Hāna High and Elementary School.
The KS Preschool has been operating two mixed-age classrooms in Hāna since 1992. The current facility is a Maui County building, which KS has a year-to-year user agreement to utilize the facility to operate a preschool. KS and ʻAPL will share the outdoor learning and playground structures.
“KS Preschools has deeply appreciated the support of the Hāna community over the years and we are very proud of our many “graduates” who have gone on to be very successful in both their educational and professional careers,” says KS Preschools poʻokula Terry Kelly.
“Our kumu are looking forward to the new partnership at the Hāna site and the opportunity to deepen and strengthen early learning opportunities for the community.”
ʻAPL and KS also partner on a preschool classroom at the Community Learning Center at Māʻili in Waiʻanae, Oʻahu.