Hundreds of charter school students learned they were no longer enrolled on the first day of school

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NANAKULI, Hawaii (KHON2) — Hundreds of students at Ka Waihona o Ka Na’auao Public Charter School learned they were disenrolled on the first day of the new school year. 

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Haleiwa resident Bailey Oliveira liked the blending program offered at Ka Waihona in Nanakuli. It offered the opportunity for her daughters Nyla and Malia to learn almost entirely online, an attractive option amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But on the first day of the new school year, Oliveira said she received an email, stating her daughters were no longer enrolled at the charter school. 

“My mind was spinning,” said Oliveira.  “I couldn’t believe this was happening. After everything we’ve been through. 2020 has been difficult. To get this email, like yes, we found a place that works for our family that’s a right fit for us. Now we don’t have anything.”

Seeking answers, she jumped on a Zoom meeting with school officials. 

“We spent about two hours on the zoom call,” explained Oliveira.  “There were 266 students un-enrolled in the program. It’s a lot of students. Basically what this came down to was a miscommunication between (Ka Waihona and the Charter School Commission).”

Unlike Hawaii Department of Education public schools, charter schools are independently operated and run by governing boards approved by the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission. 

Yvonne Lau, Interim Executive Director with the Charter School Commission, said Ka Waihona school officials “Called us late last week, asking questions: ‘Hey, we’ve got almost 900 kids (enrolled).’ I was like, ‘What? Wait, wait!’” 

Lau says Ka Waihona’s contract with the commission allows for 650 students, plus 100 slots for the online blending program.

“I believe the mix up came because they misinterpreted the flexibility the commission gave them,” said Lau. “They thought: ‘Oh, I can invite everyone in. All the parents want to come to my school. We can do it virtually.’ We explained to them that they can’t do that.” 

Lau says the charter school does not have the budget to accommodate the extra students.   

“I’m very sorry for the parents and students that have been displaced,” Lau added. “It’s a terrible thing to happen on the first day of school. We’re going to urge the school, let them assist parents in a DOE school to enroll in and get them in class.” 

Meanwhile, Oliveira says the affected parents have been discussing options with one another. She says most parents have decided to homeschool their children. 

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