Kamalii Elementary students will be returning to school Monday - as will most of their counterparts in other Maui County public schools - with a freshly painted mural and the message "Live Pono."
Artist Michael Takemoto has spent the last month working on the mural that is visible from Alanui Ke Alii Drive and that is based on drawings of a handful students at the school. The artist, an instructor at the University of Hawaii Maui College, even got a few children to serve as models for the mural that portrays children at the beach wearing T-shirts with letters spelling "Live Pono." An owl sits on a pile of books with character titles, such as "Fairness," "Respect" and "Citizenship."
"Live Pono is a message that has kind of taken hold here at Kamalii," said Principal Chris Daly last week. "Do the right thing. . . . It's a message that you live by at the school."
Christen Pauole (left) and Kristin Jones, teachers at Kamalii Elementary School, make preparations for the beginning of school Monday. Teachers have been officially back in the classroom since Tuesday.
TINA IMADA photo
Artist Michael Takemoto puts the finishing touches on a mural he painted on a Kamalii Elementary School wall facing Alanui Ke Alii Drive.
TINA IMADA photo
As Takemoto was putting the final clear protective coat on the mural late last week, schools across the county were filled with administrators, teachers and staff getting ready for the first day of school for most students Monday.
A check with the two superintendents who oversee public schools in Maui County noted some potential overcrowding at kindergartens in two west side elementary schools, efforts to fill principal openings at Maui High and the new Puu Kukui Elementary to open next school year, possible changes in bus routes and scheduling, and a new Wednesday schedule at Lahaina Intermediate School to allow for better instructional integration and coordination.
The public will have to get ready again for the traffic jams around schools, which begin classes most days at about 7:45 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.
Maui police traffic officers will be monitoring school zones throughout the island for speeding as students return to school. There is a fine of $297 for speeding in a school zone. Drivers traveling 31 mph or more above the speed limit could be ticketed for excessive speeding, which requires a court appearance.
Police are reminding drivers to leave home earlier because of traffic congestion and to abide by the 20 mph speed limit near schools.
Lindsay Ball, superintendent of the Lahaina-Molokai-Lanai-Hana complex, said the principals at King Kamehameha III and Princess Nahienaena elementary schools are "struggling" with increased kindergarten enrollments that together will total more than 300 students.
That enrollment is the "largest in a while," he said.
"I don't know where they are coming from," he added.
The principals are scrambling to find space for the students and new teachers at the last minute. They do have a little more time because kindergartners don't start on the first official day of school, he said.
Ball's counterpart, Bruce Anderson, superintendent of the Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui complex, also is experiencing enrollment booms, especially in Central Maui schools.
While the official enrollment projections will not be in until two weeks into the school year, anecdotal reports indicate that Central Maui schools are expecting growth "over their projections," he said.
Anderson will be getting some help with the opening of Puu Kukui Elementary School next school year in Wailuku's Kehalani subdivision. He sees Puu Kukui as alleviating the enrollment growth from developments in Waikapu and Maui Lani.
"Puu Kukui should alleviate pressure down here, but maybe not," said Anderson, hedging a bit due to new planned developments in his Central Maui complexes.
Bus service in his district has undergone some reorganization with consolidation of routes due to reduction of funds, Anderson said. Maui County was largely spared cuts with only 30 of the thousands of student bus riders losing their rides.
Parents are urged to call their children's schools if they have any questions about possible changes on their routes.
Anderson reported three principal openings currently.
Longtime Maui High Principal Randy Yamanuha retired at the end of last school year. Interviews are ongoing, and Anderson said he hopes to get a recommendation soon to state school Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, who will make the final decision.
Desiree Anderson, a vice principal at the school, is serving as interim principal at Maui High.
Though in not as much of a rush as for Maui High, Anderson also is interviewing for the principal position at Puu Kukui. Even though the school doesn't open until next school year, there are purchasing, hiring and curriculum decisions that need to be made before Puu Kukui's first day of school, so having the principal on board early is an asset, he said.
Jacquelyn Davis will begin her second school year as acting principal at Baldwin High School, Anderson said.
In contrast, Ball said that for the first time in a while he has not had to hire a new principal.
"It's good. We've done some leadership development," said Ball.
Noting that continuity is important for a school, Ball hopes that the stable principal staffing situation and the leadership development work will lead to improved instruction and interaction with the community.
He said his complex saw some growth in Hawaii State Assessment test scores, though adding that this is just one assessment tool, and that five of his schools met Adequate Yearly Progress by the federal No Child Left Behind standards last school year.
Anderson said schools in his complex are working hard on making AYP as well.
"Our schools have made lots of improvement, not all have made AYP," he said. "We continue to try the best that we can."
His complex also is focusing on the Common Education Agenda, a federal Race to the Top grant program. The goal is to create "shared targets for increasing academic rigor and achievement from early-childhood education to lifelong learning," a DOE website about the grant said.
Teachers are trained, and curriculum and strategies are examined. There is a major push to get children college- and career-ready, Anderson said.
At Lahaina Intermediate, students will be having a shorter day on Wednesdays in an effort to improve planning and integration of math and English concepts throughout the teaching staff.
Principal Marsha Nakamura said that two main challenges in Hawaii education these days involve funding and time. She said the school could address the latter issue.
"With the traditional schedule, our teachers are not able to plan together because there is not enough time," she said.
This is the less-is-more concept. Though instructional time is lost, the additional planning time will allow for more "quality lessons," she said.
Last May, the school received a scheduling waiver for Wednesdays. Instead of students going from 7:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., the school day for students will end at 11:45 a.m. after lunch.
There will be supervision for students in the Olowalu and Honokowai areas who take the bus and with siblings at neighboring Nahienaena until 1:15 p.m. Students in the Boys & Girls Club in Lahaina also will be allowed to stay after 11:45 a.m. because bus service could not be adjusted.
Students who remain after 11:45 a.m. only will be supervised; there will be no program. They can spend the time doing homework, said Nakamura.
This scheduling change will give teachers time to "talk story" together to create integrated lessons focusing on math and English concepts. For example, a student may learn a math concept in math class but see some practical application in his or her science class, Nakamura said. Students will be able to "connect the dots" and see how those concepts can be used in real life.
"Our purpose is to have every teacher accountable for teaching reading, writing and math concepts," said Nakamura. "It's going to take the whole school to be on the same page . . . for the student to get that well-rounded education."
* Lila Fujimoto contributed to this report. Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.