Kellie Pali had an experience many parents of young children may also share. Her daughter Aalyah was an intelligent and curious 5th grader but she was bringing home low grades and hated going to school. Pali enrolled her daughter into the Kihei Charter School and now as an 8th grader she is on the Honor Roll and loves going to school. But change is coming to the Charter School and Pali, who is also on the school’s volunteer school board, is excited.
Gene Zarro, CEO of the South Maui Learning Ohana, has announced that a review of building plans and their execution shows that the new 3 story Kihei Charter School is on budget and on time and set to open as scheduled in August 2018 with an estimated 625 students in grades K-12.
Funds were granted to the South Maui Learning Ohana by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA/Rural Development) in the form of a 40-year $17.7 million loan. The Kihei Charter School was the last and the largest loan approved by the USDA for a non-profit before Kihei was no longer eligible for such loans because its population growth had moved out of the government’s official rural category.
Bill Gresham has been involved in real estate and development on Maui and in Hawaii for many years. At the Kihei Charter School Gresham serves as the owner’s representative with the lender and builder for the construction of the Kihei Charter School. “I’m the gatekeeper,” he says when asked about his work. “I guarantee to the funder that the project will be on time and on budget and according to planning.”
The school will have a photovoltaic system on the roof and also in the parking lot. The school is taking full advantage of the sun to minimize their operational costs.
The Kihei Charter School believes it has to grow to serve the educational needs of all Maui, not just Kihei. Someday there may be charter school campuses in west, central and upcountry Maui. “I believe in a quality public education for any student who wishes to enroll. That means we have to have enough facilities and space to take all comers, said Zarro.
“This brand new building is designed to be a school as opposed to taking over a church, or a strip mall or a nightclub and a Mexican restaurant. I do think there will be a greater awareness of Kihei Charter School and hopefully some of the misconceptions about us will disappear, including the misconception that we charge tuition. In fact, the school is a free public school like any other open to all at no cost. We also take students from all areas of Maui not just Kihei,” he added.
For Pali the new home is more than bricks and mortar. “The first thing this building is going to do is remind the kids that now our school grounds, our environment actually reflects the quality of work that they are getting. And bringing those two worlds together I think will be able to create this long-term legacy of building up kids in this environment of project-base learning, applying that to our community and then those kids going out into the community and being great community leaders and serving the community and creating that legacy coming all through the Kihei Charter School.”
With another daughter about to become eligible for enrollment in kindergarten Pali has made her decision about the educational future of her family, “It’s the Kihei Charter for us.”
There are still a few seats available for students this school year. You can call Gene Zarro at 808 385-1197 for more information.