Even through these hard economic times, Carden Academy of Maui is looking at its future and has purchased the nearly 3-acre parcel it sits on in Pukalani.
The school held a blessing for its campus on Friday and unveiled a new school sign at the property it shares with Grace Church along Kula Highway.
Carden Academy bought the property from the church for under $2 million, said school Director Nina Sato. Now that the school has a mortgage, it will start a capital campaign soon to help pay for the property, she said.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Kindergartner Zoe Rehrer, 5, prepares to present flowers to “the tree of wisdom” during a blessing ceremony Friday morning.
The school has been renting the property for 10 years from the church, and now the church will rent back from the school. The two will continue to share the property.
"I think it's an opportunity we couldn't pass up" said Charles Buckingham, president of the school's board of directors.
He said the school had been looking for a permanent site for its campus, but there were "not many locations."
Sato said the purchase was "really something we have been hoping would happen at some point. It is exciting."
She said the school can now move forward with repairs and upgrades it had postponed when it didn't own the property.
Grace Church Pastor Robb Finberg called the buy a "win-win" situation for the church and the school.
He said the church and the school have had a good long-term relationship over the years and he always had a vision of having a school on his church grounds.
Finberg said the church is also looking for another site to relocate its congregation of around 200 people.
The school runs from kindergarten through 8th grade and has an enrollment of 104 students. Carden Academy of Maui is based on the curriculum of the late educator Mae Carden, who opened her first school in 1934 in New York. Carden's curriculum engages children from the age of 3, with an integrated program that each year reinforces and builds on strengths gained by the student.
Carden on Maui was started in the late 1990s by five mothers seeking an alternative education for their children. The first school was held in a garage.
Sato acknowledged that the timing to buy the property was "difficult;" in spring 2009, church officials informed the school that they were thinking of selling.
"The economy was taking a downturn, people were concerned about it," she said of the school and parents.
But Sato said the school ended up with a good deal. What it is paying in "property fees" now is a little less than what the school had spent on rent each month, which was one of the deciding factors to buy the property.
But, she added, there are still monthly utility bills to pay.
In 2008, the school had started a capital campaign to build a new campus on an empty property in Pukalani, after Grace Church indicated it wasn't going to renew the school's lease, Sato said.
Sato said it would have been a daunting task had they had to go through raising money and buying the vacant property, as infrastructure needed to be put in and buildings needed to be constructed.
Fortunately, however, there was a change in plans by the church and the school was able to stay, she said.
Sato said the nearly 3-acre property contains four classrooms, a little trailer that the school uses for its business office, and the church fellowship hall and sanctuary, both of which the school and church share.
Sato said she doesn't see the school expanding soon and instead it will focus on upgrades and repairs.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.