HONOLULU (KHON2) — More access to preschool through the State’s “Ready Keiki” program took big steps ahead on Wednesday, May 17. The initiative is led by Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke.

Ready Keiki launched a school-finder website where parents can locate public, charter and private preschools across the islands.

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Lt. Governor Luke has worked closely with the Ready Keiki partners since the plan was first announced in January.

“These first 11 classrooms wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of our early learning partners,” explained Lt. Gov. Luke.

Lt. Gov. Luke went on to explain further.

“From the counties, state departments, the non-profit sector, and private providers — it really comes down to the right people at the right time working towards a shared vision of universal access to preschool across Hawaiʻi so that our youngest learners can grow and thrive, said Lt. Gov. Luke. 

Also announced on Wednesday was that contracts have been signed for 11 new classrooms which will be ready to go by the beginning of the 2023 fall semester.

“Early learning opportunities yield tremendous, short- and long-term benefits for Hawaiʻi and the world our children will contribute to in the future,” said EOEL Director, Yuuko Arikawa-Cross.

A rending of the new classrooms to be built for the Ready Keiki Keiki program on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 in Honolulu, Hawai'i. (Photo/Ready Keiki)
A rending of the new classrooms to be built for the Ready Keiki Keiki program on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 in Honolulu, Hawai’i. (Photo/Ready Keiki)

Arikawa-Cross went on to say that “with inflation and the cost of living in Hawaiʻi impacting so many of our families, and the COVID pandemic and this recovery period, expansion efforts such as Ready Keiki provide opportunities for working families to sustain employment and find a measure of financial stability.” 

Lawmakers have slated the largest amount to date — $200 million — toward building hundreds more preschool rooms at schools across the State.

“We are grateful to continue our partnership with the Department of Education to open 11 new classrooms this upcoming school year. Upon signature by Governor Green, EOEL will be able to accept three-year-old children, in addition to four-year-old children. Children must be aged three or four on or before July 31 of the current school year,” said Arikawa-Cross. 

Officials said that priority will be given to children whose current situations include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following: 

  • Children in foster care; 
  • Children who are experiencing homelessness or unstable housing; 
  • Children whose family’s income is no more than 300% of the federal poverty level; 
  • Children who are experiencing at-risk situations which may impact their development and learning; 
  • Children who are eligible for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and whose Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is determined as general education; and 
  • Children who are dual or multi-language learners. 

The 11 new public pre-K classrooms will open at the following campuses: 

  • Hawaiʻi Island
    • Waimea Elementary School
  • Kauaʻi
    • Kīlauea Elementary School
  • Maui
    • Hāna High & Elementary School
    • Wailuku Elementary School
  • Oʻahu
    • Fern Elementary School
    • Honowai Elementary School
    • Kaʻewai Elementary School
    • Lincoln Elementary School
    • Pope Elementary School
    • Sunset Beach Elementary School
    • Wahiawā Elementary School 

Deadlines vary by school. Families and caregivers can see these locations and apply via on the Ready Keiki website.

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Applications are open for all 45 partnering preschools in EOEL’s Public Prekindergarten Program, including the 11 new preschools.