Konawaena High School library remains open

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, the Konawaena High School library’s doors remain open.

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Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, the Konawaena High School library’s doors remain open.

Despite a reduction in the librarian position to part time, the facility is open to students over lunch and recess and to groups of students under the supervision of teachers during class times, Principal Shawn Suzuki said. The library is also used for after-school tutoring, he said.

Library access has been a center of contention for some parents and students who opposed Suzuki’s decision last school year to cut the librarian post to half-time. Rumors have circulated that the facility has been shuttered, but Department of Education officials say that’s not the case.

The school’s full-time librarian Woody Plaut left the position in response to the cutback and took up work as a library media specialist at nearby Konawaena Middle School. Suzuki declined to say whether the part-time position left by Plaut had been filled, citing the privacy of personnel issues.

The reduction of the librarian position was at the center of student protests in January, and unhappiness about the situation lingers.

“My husband and I are deeply disappointed in Konawaena’s decision to cut the funding for their librarian,” said Kelli Totten, the parent of four children who have attended the high school, in an email. “The library served as a hub of information for the entire school.”

Besides its collection of literature, the library houses a 65-computer lab and the Konawaena Virtual Library. DOE officials last year said the reduction was prompted by budget constraints similar to those that have caused other schools to shed library staff or cut hours.

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The school funding formula allows principals the flexibility to put money where they feel it is most needed, West Hawaii Complex Area Superintendent Art Souza said.

“The downside is that, if you don’t have enough money, you have to make hard decisions,” Souza said. “You can’t cut classroom positions.”

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