Middle and High School Finally Within Reach for Kaua‘i’s North Shore
Namahana School Receives Conditional Approval from Hawai‘i State Public School Charter Commission
Today the Hawai‘i State Public Charter School Commission granted its first new charter approval in five years to Namahana School, a visionary charter school poised to fill a longstanding need for tuition-free education past sixth grade on Kaua‘i’s North Shore. Currently, all children in the region must travel to Kapa‘a Middle School or beyond to access public education after elementary school. This involves commutes that can add up to 1.5 hours each way, as well as restricting opportunities for them and their families to engage with sports and other school activities. Namahana School was one of only two applicants granted conditional approval out of an original 12 submissions in 2020.
“This moment has been years in the making, and for everyone who has been working tirelessly to make this school a reality, it feels like the stars are truly aligning in support of our vision,” said Lorri Mull, Education Chair of the Kaua‘i North Shore Community Foundation (KNSCF). Namahana School began in 2015 as an initiative of KNSCF, which served as the project incubator. KNSCF later secured a 99-year land license for eight acres at the Wai Koa plantation from philanthropist Joan Porter and then went on to raise more than $3 million for preliminary costs associated with the development of the charter school.
“Without the tremendous generosity of Joan Porter and her late husband, Bill, this dream might have remained beyond our reach,” emphasized Mull. “They understood years ago how badly our community needed a school that could keep children and families connected to each other, and to the North Shore itself. We are immensely grateful to them and all the other people who stepped up to get us this far.”
Namahana School plans to welcome its first cohort of students in grades 7 and 8 in the fall of 2025. With conditional approval, Namahana School will enter into a two-year pre-opening charter school contract with the Charter Commission that will contain pre-opening assurances to be met during the start-up period. Once assurances are met, a five-year charter contract will be awarded. The school would then incorporate a new grade each year until it reaches its target capacity of 360 students in grades 7-12.
“A public charter will enable us to welcome students from Anahola to Hā‘ena to experience what we believe will be a life-changing educational experience,” said Melanie Parker, Chair of the Namahana School Governing Board, which is responsible for ensuring that the school fulfills its mission by providing academic and financial oversight of its operations. “We are so grateful to the Hawai’i State Public Charter School Commission for their confidence in the strength of Namahana School’s application and their recognition of the support of Kaua’i’s North Shore community in developing a public charter middle and high school.”
The School’s mission and vision were articulated through a rigorous community engagement process across the communities of Kaua‘i’s North Shore, defined as those within the moku boundaries of Halele‘a and Ko‘olau. This process took place in 2019 and was spearheaded by Dr. Kapua Chandler, Namahana’s school leader. Chandler was born and raised in Kīlauea, and obtained her Master’s in Educational Administration from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and her PhD in Higher Education and Organizational Change from the University of California, Los Angeles. Because of her family’s deep roots in the area, she is well versed in the cultural and community-based framework for Namahana’s ‘āina-based curriculum, which is built around three core values derived from the community listening process: Aloha ʻĀina (to practice a shared understanding of our kuleana for ʻāina); Aloha Kanaka (to respect and mālama our community, our families, and ourselves); and Aloha i ke Ao (to perpetuate pono practices to navigate cultures of the world).
“Our educational philosophy is student-driven, hands-on, and tailored to solving real-world problems. It is designed to empower our students to actively contribute to a resilient future on Kauaʻi and beyond,” explained Chandler. “Namahana School students will gain essential skills for personal and professional fulfillment, while learning to become engaged kiaʻi, or caretakers, of their island home. We are confident that they will grow to be leaders who seek solutions to the greatest challenges facing both their communities and the world.”
The School’s fundraising efforts are now being spearheaded by the Namahana Education Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated solely to supporting Namahana School. “Now that we have our conditional charter approval, our next challenge is raising the funds to build a campus that reflects Namahana’s vision and values,” said Jessica Kaui Fu, Chair of the Namahana Education Foundation. “We are grateful to KNSCF for their tireless efforts and their initial funding for the Namahana Educational Foundation. As has been the case every step of the way, we know that we can only meet our next goals with the full support and participation of our community.”
Namahana School will be organizing a public community event later this summer to share the progress of the school to-date, including a timeline of next steps and opportunities for community involvement. More information and updates about Namahana School can be found at www.namahanafoundation.org.
Namahana School Leader