Enrollment in Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa area unaffected by eruption

Enrollment in the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area has remained nearly the same in the new academic year, despite upheaval from eruption activity that began in lower Puna as the 2017-18 school year was ending.

According to data released Thursday by the state Department of Education, 5,390 students were enrolled in the complex area for the 2018-19 school year compared with 5,392 students last year.

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Chad Keone Farias, complex area superintendent for the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa and Hilo-Waiakea complex areas, said he was “expecting more movement of students and was expecting a decrease in enrollment in our Pahoa schools,” which hasn’t been the case.

Farias said the governor’s office and the mayor’s office “really responded” in the wake of the eruption, which began May 3 in Leilani Estates and eventually claimed more than 700 homes before volcanic activity slowed in August.

Because of that, “I think we could communicate to families and faculty and have our operations remain relatively normal,” he said.

“East Hawaii faculty and staff came to work despite experiencing some trauma of their own,” Farias said. “They continue to come to work and care for our keiki, and because of that the public has confidence in us, and I appreciate their confidence.”

In the Hilo-Waiakea complex area, Farias said there weren’t any real surprises regarding enrollment numbers.

Enrollment in that complex area was 7,895, up from 7,744 students in 2017-18.

Although kindergarten enrollment initially “lagged,” Farias said parents came in late and “we had to do some late hiring.”

“We’re glad those numbers didn’t remain low and that our schools are fully staffed and kids are in (school),” he said.

The Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Area also saw a slight increase in enrollment, with 10,075 students this year compared with 9,955 last year.

Statewide, enrollment increased slightly to 179,698 students compared with 179,255 last year.

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According to the data, the DOE’s 256 schools enrolled 168,152 students, while 36 charter schools enrolled 11,546 students. Charter school enrollment was up 386 from the prior year.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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