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3 Maui County schools in top 5 enrollment statewide

Maui High, Maui Waena, Kihei Charter among biggest across the islands

School buses sit in a row at the Central Maui Baseyard earlier this month. In a regular year, some of them would be servicing Maui High and Maui Waena Intermediate schools, which were in the top five statewide for enrollment. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

In this strangest of school years with mostly long-distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maui High, Maui Waena Intermediate and Kihei Charter schools ranked in the top five of largest schools in the state by enrollment, the state Department of Education announced Friday.

There were more than 21,388 students enrolled in 33 public and charter schools in Maui County. (Hawaii Technology Academy, a public charter school, has a Wailuku branch but enrollment numbers were not broken out by island). That was a 3 percent decline in Maui County public school enrollment, from 22,067 students in the 2019-20 school year.

Maui High in Kahului was the fifth largest public high school in the state with 2,100 students, compared to 2,082 students during the last academic year. In Maui County, Baldwin High in Wailuku was the second largest at 1,299 students followed by King Kekaulike High in Pukalani at 1,225.

“Enrollment is not too bad, kind of what we expected,” Maui High Principal Jamie Yap said Monday. “We’re following a five-year plan, so it’s what we anticipated, and numbers will go back down again in a couple years.”

The long-delayed South Maui high school is expected to be completed in that time frame and relieve Maui High’s enrollment issue. South Maui students currently attend Maui High.

The Sabers have a “pretty large incoming class” of 461 freshmen, as well as 522 sophomores, 505 juniors and 394 seniors, Yap said. He added that enrollment also is dependent on student counts in the lower grades.

“So far so good,” he said when asked how students and staff were handling the remote learning curriculum amid COVID-19. “Distance learning has been a success I think, but it’s not perfect. We finally got our hot spots covered — kids who don’t have Wi-Fi, online services and devices.

“We just want to make sure our students and families are set up and connected.”

Kihei Charter was the fourth largest public charter school in the state with an enrollment of 713 students for the 2020-21 school year, up from 689 students last year. Kualapuu School, a charter school on Molokai, had 309 students this year, a drop from 327 in 2019-20.

By comparison, the largest public charter school in Hawaii was the four-island Hawaii Technology Academy with 1,337 students, followed by Kamaile Academy, 893, and Ka Waihona O Ka Naauao, 741, both on Oahu.

Michael Stubbs, Kihei Charter head of school, was impressed to hear that his school was among the largest public charter schools in the state.

“We’ve grown considerably over the past couple years,” he said Monday.

He owed the 3 percent uptick in the head count to the additional classes added to the 3rd and 9th grades, which gave families more options during the enrollment period.

“This year has been going well with respect to our situation,” said Stubbs, whose school is known for its use of technology. “Our staff and faculty have been working very hard to provide a high-quality virtual education for our students.”

According to the state Education Department news release, Maui Waena Intermediate in Kahului was the fifth largest middle school in the state at 1,100 students. This was a slight decline from last year’s enrollment of 1,162 students. Kalama Intermediate in Makawao was second largest in Maui County with 899 students and Iao Intermediate was third with 809 students.

Among the elementary schools in the county, Kahului Elementary had the largest enrollment with 901 students, slightly less than the 933 last year. Lihikai Elementary in Kahului was second with 816 students, followed by Puu Kukui Elementary in Wailuku with 735 students.

The department reported that public and charter schools statewide enrolled a total of 174,704 students, compared to 179,331 last year, a 2.6 percent drop. Of that total, 162,491 students attended regular schools and 12,213 students, public charter schools.

A spreadsheet with enrollment totals by state, district and school can be downloaded from http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/ConnectWithUs/MediaRoom/PressReleases/Pages/2020-21-enrollment.aspx.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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