Student enrollment up in Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa area

HILO — Student enrollment in the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area has increased, according to data released last week by the state Department of Education.

There are 5,457 students enrolled in the complex area for the 2019-20 school year, an increase of 67 students from the 5,390 students enrolled in the complex area for the 2018-19 year.

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There was little change between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, despite the upheaval and uncertainty brought by the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano. The eruption, which destroyed more than 700 homes and structures in lower Puna, began as the 2017-18 school year concluded.

The growth this year, though, wasn’t surprising to Complex Area Superintendent Chad Keone Farias, who said many of the complex area’s schools have seen an increase in enrollment — some growing by as few as 10 and others by as many as 40 students.

Farias said Pahoa schools are “up in numbers, and I attribute that to a relatively calm year last year,” he said.

There were no storms, lava emergencies or natural disasters to contend with during the 2018-19 academic year, and Farias said the increase in enrollment is “sort of a spring back as families are coming back because of the stability.”

And as the year continues, Farias said there will be an even greater increase in the complex area’s enrollment.

“A lot of our families travel during the summer. … Some of them really register late,” he said.

Keaau Elementary, for example, has grown by as many as 70 students by the end of the year in previous years, Farias explained.

Currently, the school has about 850 students right now, but Farias said “they’ll end the year with as many as 920, 930 kids.”

Overall, Farias said, it’s “nice to see the seats filled, and it’s great to be back to school. … We encourage our families to keep our students coming because attendance matters.”

Enrollment in the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area remained nearly steady with 7,893 total students, compared to 7,895 in 2018-19, and up from 7,744 students in 2017-18.

The Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Area saw a slight decrease in enrollment, with 10,061 students compared to 10,075 students in 2018-19.

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Statewide, enrollment was 179,331, down 0.2% from the 2018-19 school year’s student population of 179,698, according to the DOE. Of those, 11,877 students were enrolled in 37 charter schools.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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