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Academy board considering multiple offers for campus

February 22, 2014 - 12:05am

Hualalai Academy’s board of directors, facing the impending school closure at the end of this year, has two divergent paths in front of it.

One direction is with Kamehameha Schools, which last week announced its interest in the North Kona campus.

The other, which an outspoken group of parents say they believe is a better fit, is with Makua Lani Christian Academy, which submitted what its board members believed to be a full-price offer for the Hualalai campus.

“The sale to Kamehameha Schools does not meet the needs of the children currently attending Hualalai Academy,” parent Doug Scoufos said. “Out of the two options, Makua Lani is the only option that would make it possible for the majority of our students to remain on our campus next fall if they choose to.”

Scoufos said 20 to 25 percent of Hualalai Academy families have already approached Makua Lani, which offers classes from kindergarten through 12th grade on two North Kona campuses, about possibly enrolling next year. Scoufos said Makua Lani board members told him the school cannot accommodate that many new students. Makua Lani is the only private school in North Kona; Scoufos said it wasn’t feasible to imagine sending all of the children who currently attend Hualalai to Hawaii Preparatory Academy or Parker School.

Diane Heiman, whose husband Steve served on the Hualalai Academy board at one point, and who has seen six grandchildren attend the school, questioned the impact selling to Kamehameha Schools would have on the academy’s students, in an email provided to West Hawaii Today.

“The impact or result of the ‘letter of intent’ with Kamehameha Schools will not produce a win-win outcome for the Kona community and its educational needs that are not being filled by any other means,” Heiman wrote. “Even though Kamehameha Schools will win by taking over Hualalai Academy, the current students, future students and Kona community will lose as a result of this decision.”

But for all the enthusiasm some parents have for Makua Lani, others have emailed support for the Kamehameha Schools offer, Board President Matthew James said Friday.

“It has become a very polarizing topic,” he said, noting some parents have contacted him expressing excitement about the idea that Kamehameha Schools might offer a campus of some sort in West Hawaii. Kamehameha Schools, which serves students of Hawaiian descent, currently only offers preschool classes here. Officials last week declined to provide details about how they would use the campus, if they purchased it.

James said other parents have expressed hesitancy about sending their children to a religious school.

He said he and Head of School John Colson have been working on a closure plan since July.

“We’re doing our best to ensure we follow the appropriate process to handle this monumental event of closing a school,” James said, adding he expects the board to select an offer “really soon.”

Closing on the sale is not likely to happen until after the school year ends.

School officials announced last fall they would be closing the high school because of financial problems. Last month, they announced the entire school would close at the end of the year, and that bank and private loans were being used to keep the doors open until then.

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