Hualalai Academy is suspending high school operations starting next fall.
Head of School John Colson said Friday the board considered making the move last year, but too late to give students time to apply to other private schools for this year. Hualalai has only 11 high school students this year. About half of that group will graduate at the end of the year.
“We’ve been looking at this for quite some time,” Colson said. “This was not a snap decision.”
Board members and school officials would consider reopening the high school if demand increased, although they might do a phased reopening, adding one grade level at a time, Colson said.
“We’ve been talking with the kids since I arrived,” about the possibility of suspending the high school next year, said Colson, who took over as head of school this year. “There’s some sadness. There were some tears. These kids have selected this learning environment. They wanted a small environment.”
Students learned this week of the suspension. Colson said he planned to bring representatives from other private and charter schools to campus to meet with high school students and their parents.
Some of those other schools, including Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Parker School and Makua Lani Christian Academy, have been experiencing enrollment increases, Colson added. He did not know what Hualalai’s peak high school enrollment was, but last year the school had about 30 high school students and even more the year before.
How the change will affect Hualalai’s high school instructors was unclear Friday, Colson said.
“We’re going to do everything we can so people don’t lose their jobs,” he said. “We may have some people leave as a result of this. It’s really too early in the process to say.”
Hualalai Academy’s website lists eight teachers for the upper school, which includes grades six through 12.
Colson said running the school for just 11 students is not sustainable, financially, and ends up pulling resources away from other grades. It’s also unfair to the students, who have access to a limited range of resources, such as course diversity, because of the small enrollment figures, he added.
Money and resources used for the high school this year will be redirected to the lower and middle schools next year.
Hualalai Academy was founded in 1996, although it was started in 1985 as a satellite campus of Hawaii Preparatory Academy, according to its website. Since 1996, enrollment has grown from 52 to more than 190 students.