By Wendy Osher
Two Hawaiian immersion advocacy groups on Maui will host stakeholder meetings to discuss a plan for the proposed transition of Pāʻia Elementary School into an entirely Hawaiian speaking, immersion site.
The first meeting, hosted by Nā Leo Kākoʻo o Maui and Nā Leo Pūlama will take place this Saturday, Sept. 21, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the Pāʻia School Cafeteria.
Meeting organizers say that as interest in Hawaiian immersion education continues to grow, “the need for an entirely immersion school has become apparent.”
The goal, they say, is for Pāʻia School to be the first in Maui County to deliver instruction across all disciplines exclusively in the Hawaiian language.
Hawaiian language immersion now represents nearly 70% of the school student population, at a campus that once enforced an English-only policy following a ban in 1896.
A second meeting is scheduled to take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Pā`ia Community Center.
The meetings come on the heels of demonstrations earlier this year when school administrators planned a lottery for placement in Pāʻia Elementary School’s Hawaiian Immersion kindergarten program.
The lottery was subsequently cancelled with opponents arguing that the lottery would have denied children the right to Hawaiian language immersion education and restrict the growth of language revitalization.
Supporters of conversion of the campus into an all-immersion site say the goal of immersion is language revitalization. “That’s best achieved in environments where students learn, eat and play in a second language,” a flyer announcing the upcoming meetings stated.
Meeting organizers note that additional classrooms have been added at the 1st and 2nd grade for the past 3 years to keep up with the growth in immersion; and the student-to-teacher ratio in 3rd and 4th grade immersion classes are larger than recommended due to a lack of space and teacher positions at the school.
The Hawaiian Language Immersion Program at Pāʻia School is non-exclusive, and accepts all children from Central Maui between Kindergarten and 5th grade, regardless of race, ethnicity, or cultural identity.
Meeting organizers say there is currently no plan in place and that the meetings are the beginning of developing a plan for advocacy.