Public school enrollment in Maui County grew by 1.6 percent to more than 21,000 students this school year as the impact of Kamehameha Schools Maui on the island student population diminishes, according to a state Department of Education official.
The enrollment at the private school, which serves Native Hawaiian youths, has grown to 1,000 students over the last decade and has siphoned off students from the public schools and has tempered enrollment growth in Maui County, Tom Saka, DOE information management specialist, said Wednesday. Overall student population at the kindergarten-to-12th grade school in Pukalani has remained stable the last couple of years, leading to enrollment growth in the public schools in the county, he said.
Although the student population has remained relatively stable, another trend poses concerns for the school officials. Schools Upcountry are steadily losing enrollment, while schools in Central Maui are growing and some are full, said Saka.
For example, King Kekaulike High School in Pukalani saw an enrollment decline of 4.5 percent to 1,066 students this school year. Meanwhile, Maui High School in Kahului, the largest school in the county, saw its enrollment grow 2.4 percent over last year to 1,870 students.
And while there is room for more students at Kalama Intermediate in Makawao, Maui Waena Intermediate in Kahului is at capacity with 1,112 students, up 2.6 percent from last year. The Central Maui school also is the fourth largest middle school in the state this year.
"It's a tough situation," said Saka, noting that the other intermediate school in Central Maui, Iao Intermediate, is near capacity with 841 students.
He cited a migration of families from Upcountry to housing developments in Maui Lani and Kehalani. The DOE is expecting growth in the coming years of 3 to 4 percent of students in Central Maui, a stable situation in West Maui and a decline of 1 to 2 percent of students Upcountry, Saka said.
He indicated that there may be issues finding classrooms to handle the migration of students to Central Maui. He mentioned Puu Kukui Elementary, which will open next school year in Wailuku, and the planned Kihei high school as new facilities in the works to help ease growing student numbers.
DOE planners use birth statistics to gauge school population trends, Saka said. Births began increasing in 2001 and peaked in 2008. That means next school year's kindergarten class, those children born in 2008, will be the largest in 15 years, he said. This trend will continue in the coming years as smaller 12th-grade classes are replaced with larger kindergarten classes.
The state's official public school enrollment for the 2012-13 school year - with all 254 DOE and 32 charter schools - is 183,251, an increase of 1.1 percent compared to the 2011-12 total of 181,213.
On Oahu, Leeward remained the largest administrative district with 40,286 students, followed by Central with 33,318; Honolulu with 31,289; and Windward with 15,036. On the Neighbor Islands, Hawaii has 23,180 students; Maui, 21,119; and Kauai, 9,430.
On Maui, which has two complexes, the Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui high complex and its feeder schools had an enrollment of 16,144, a 1.6 percent increase over last
year. The Hana-Lahainaluna-Molokai-Lanai high complex and its feeder schools had an enrollment of 5,005 students, up 2.5 percent from last school year.
Maui District had 19,217 regular students, an increase of nearly 2 percent over last school year, while the special education population decreased 1.4 percent to 1,902 students.
Two of the five smallest public schools in Hawaii were on Molokai - Kilohana Elementary, 75 students, and Maunaloa Elementary, 87 students. Both are kindergarten-to-6th-grade schools.
Charter schools statewide realized a 5.3 percent gain in enrollment to 9,593, over last year's 9,109. Kihei Charter, a kindergarten-to-12th-grade school, was the fifth largest charter school in the state with 503 students.
Other Maui District highlights:
* High schools - Baldwin High, 1,598 students; Lahainaluna, 1063; Molokai High, 318; Lanai High & Elementary (grades 9 to 12), 153; Hana High & Elementary (grades 9 to 12), 78.
* Five largest elementary schools - Kahului, 1024 students; Lihikai, 982; Kihei, 969; Wailuku, 960; Waihee, 816.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.
* This article includes a correction from the original published on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. The story incorrectly listed the grades served by the school. The Maui News apologizes for the error.