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AOP analyzing report to hopefully rebrand school, bring in more funds

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jun 10 2013 07:17:00 PM HST

A local private school says it's shutting down for the year. Now parents have 2 months to find a new school.

HONOLULU -

"It makes me sad that we're not going to be here," said Karen Clark.

The concerned mom, and now school registrar, watched her shy, introverted daughter blossom at the Academy of the Pacific in Alewa Heights.

"She graduated with honors and doing really well," said Clark.

Head of School Lou Young says one of the big draws of AOP, with its three acre lot on Alewa Heights overlooking Honolulu, has always been its small size and relaxing atmosphere, with an average of an eight to one student teacher ratio.

But he said enrollment, at its peak of 140 14 years ago, dwindled to about 30 this year, with tuition close to the cost of much larger, more recognized private schools.

That, combined with a tougher economy, fewer alumni to tap for resources, and more competition for grants made it impossible to keep operating.

"It was disappointing for everybody and sad for everybody, and I called every family Saturday to tell them about it and to talk about what we are going to do to serve the students as well as they can be served," said Young.

The school has been partnering with other schools in the Pac-5 system to offer other sports and extra-curriculum activities to give students a wide range of options.

"I came here freshman and it was just so nice and I really enjoyed that it was a small school," said new graduate Rachel Stevens is pursuing a nursing career.

She said she loved the at-home feel, filled with places to express creativity, or with space to bond with the environment -- the school garden even providing healthy meals.

She said she always knew education is only part of what she got out of AOP.

"This school definitely had a purpose and it has a purpose. I don't want to say it in the past tense because I still believe, I still believe that we can do a lot of good," said Clark.

The Hawaii Association of Independent Schools is helping place students in different schools.

Most of the 12 full time teachers will stay on staff -- for the time being.

For the next several months the school will be analyzing a marketing report, to see if they can find a better way to market the school to bring in more students and more money.

They said they won't give up hope they can reopen sometime in the not too distant future.
 

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