Maui Business

Kīhei Charter School to Offer Free Preschool

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Kīhei Charter School kindergarteners Violet Peake, Caleb Straka, Taj LaTurner, Skyler Schmidt and Mimi Kent join their teacher Kimberlee Baldridge to work on Tangrams, a traditional Chinese puzzle made of a square divided into seven pieces (one parallelogram, one square and five triangles) that can be arranged to match particular designs and helps to develop the advanced thinking skills needed to learn math. Kīhei Charter School photo.

Gene Zarro, vice-chair of the Kīhei Charter School Governance Board, has announced that the school will begin to offer a free preschool or “Pre-K” program, as the result of the construction of the new Kīhei Charter High School and education complex.

Right now, in Hawai‘i and on Maui, pre-K is scarce and an option many families cannot afford, a Kīhei Charter press release stated.

Currently, parents can pay $900 a month or more for pre-K education. At that rate a family can save as much as $10,800 annually with the free Charter School Pre-K program.

The charter school is a public school, and as such, there is no charge for it’s educational programs, just as there are no tuition fees to attend any public school in the state.

Currently, the charter school operates a Kindergarten program and educational programs for elementary, middle school and high school students. The addition of the Pre-K program will provide continuing charter school students with a pre-K through high school education and will create the ability to study the positive impacts of a pre-K education on higher achievement in high school and better attendance in college.


Pre-K Program Director Leslie Baldridge, currently the elementary school director, also teaches fifth grade language arts and social studies. With more than 30 years of educational experience, she began her educational career as a pre-school teacher and worked in that field for 15 years. She then taught middle school and high school before moving to Hawai‘i and joining the staff of the charter school.


The Pre-K program is planned to begin in July of 2017, depending on the completion schedule of the Kīhei Charter High School. According to Baldridge, the initial size of the class will be limited to 19 students, most likely ages 4 and 5, who miss the Kindergarten entrance date.

The Pre-K program will most likely run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a full-day session. The program intends to teach students everything they will need to be successful in Kindergarten.

Four days of the week, the students will be taught on campus and the fifth day will be a “Virtual Day” with parents teaching their child at home based on a curriculum prepared for them by the charter school and sent via a blog.


“We are not a cookie-cutter school, said Baldridge. “Students learn at their own rate, so one student may be mastering those initial skills, and if they are ready to learn letters there is no reason why they should be held back. The goal is help them be successful at the next level and we will do whatever it takes to enable those students.”

“Students will learn how to get along with others or what adults call collaboration, they will initially learn how to be with other students, how to focus, how to play, how to manipulate tools for that higher level of thinking whether it’s math or learning letters,”Baldridge said. “It’s these building blocks of success that we want to start with early.”

“We are student centered and we also serve the parents,” Baldridge said. “Parents are active partners in their children’s education. We see the need for what students require at this level. We are all about what’s best for kids.”

To learn more about program plans go online. Registration applications for Pre-K are not being taken at this time; visit the website for more information.

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