Monday brings first day of public school classes

  • Students gather to review playground rules on the first day of school Monday at Kealakehe Elementary School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kealakehe Elementary School principal Nancy Matsukawa addresses students on the first day of school on Monday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Students start their first day back at school by pulling weeds in the garden on Monday at Kealakehe Elementary School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Students gather in a circle with their teacher for "Warrior Connect" on the first day of school Monday at Kealakehe Elementary School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Linda Jumon helps her daughter Lyla find which first grade class she is in Monday at Kealakehe Elementary School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Joy Hanato gets the attention of her fourth-grade students at Kealakehe Elementary School on the first day of class Monday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — It’s a day filled with excitement, anticipation, apprehension and a few fears and tears.

School was back in session across the state on Monday, garnering a collective sigh of relief from parents everywhere as public school students headed to classrooms.


“For me it was bittersweet,” said Alyssa Luiz, mother of a Kahakai Elementary School third grader whom she dropped off for first day of classes Monday.

“I couldn’t wait for him to get back into his normal routine but also felt a little sad that he is growing so fast,” she said, adding that her son was excited to go back to school, be with all his friends again and eager to learn new things. “He couldn’t wait for summer to be over.”

At Kealakehe Elementary School, fourth-grade teacher Joy Hanato started the day by taking her students to the garden outside her classroom for a daily “Warrior Connect.” Students stood in a circle, gave their name and rated how they felt from on a scale of one to five. Hanato explained the scale, one being a horrible, terrible mood and five a “I feel fantastic.”

Hanato said starting the day in a restorative circle gives kids the chance to say where they are emotionally and why they feel like that. It gives her insight to the child’s mood and can deal with them accordingly. She also said it helps classmates become more sensitive to feelings and moods. Most students in her class rated their mood as five, happy and excited to be back and reconnecting with friends.

Hanato taught most of her students last year in a practice called looping, where a teacher follows their students for two years, establishing a beneficial continuity.

Callen Querubin was excited to be back at school with the same teacher he had last year.

“She is fun and nice and gets me straight because sometimes I do bad things,” he said. “It’s going to be a good year because there’s some new kids, so that means new friends, and I get to learn lots of new stuff.”

With an estimated enrollment of 925 K through fifth-grade students, keeping order becomes quite a challenge. Kealakehe has instituted a few basic tenets to keep the kids in line.

At an opening assembly by grade level, Principal Nancy Matsukawa asked the kids what were the three personal standards of the school. Without missing a heartbeat, students replied “make wise decisions, solve problems and show respect.”

After introducing students to their grade level teachers and staff, Matsukawa reinforced the school’s cellphone policy.

“You do not need them at school. There is no reason for you to use your cellphone,” she told the group of fourth graders.

She went on to define consequences. If a student is seen with a cellphone during school hours, it will be taken away and a parent must pick it up at the office after school.

After reviewing other school rules, she sent the teachers and their charges back to class with wishes for a wonderful year.

Matsukawa was excited to start the year certified as a Blue Zones School.

Blue Zones Project is a community-wide well-being improvement initiative that helps make healthy choices easier for everyone in Hawaii.

“We are looking forward to implementing Blue Zones standards for healthier environment for everyone,” said Matsukawa.

That was evident as students met to get a list of acceptable versus prohibited snacks. Fruits, vegetables, granola bars, water … good. Chips, cookies, li hing mui, ramen, soda, sports drinks … not acceptable.


Then came a long list of playground rules before the recess bell rang and the children went to burn off some energy.

“I’m happy to have my students back,” said Hanato. “I missed them.”

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