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Waikele Students Push For Better Transportation

Sen. Michelle Kidani

DOE Works To Improve Bus System

It’s back to campus this week for thousands of our youngsters who are sharing the excitement of the new school year with classmates and teachers. Last year at this time, many students and their families were scrambling to make alternate transportation arrangements as the Department of Education announced that more than 100 bus routes were being eliminated statewide due to rising costs and a loss of funding.

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Juanito Moises of Waipahu High School accepts his award at the GEARUP National Conference in San Francisco. Photo from Sen. Kidani.

Anxious calls to administrators, emergency meetings of the Board of Education, at which I testified, and lots of finger pointing raised the anxiety level a year ago. During the 2013 legislative session, ongoing hearings and a detailed audit confirmed that the DOE’s school bus transportation system needed a complete overhaul.

A partial solution that we all hope will lead to permanent improvements is now being implemented. The DOE is implementing a pilot program that assures bus service to schools in several Oahu neighborhoods, including Kanoelani Elementary School in the Pearl City complex and to Waikele Elementary in the Waipahu complex. Information from this first-year pilot will be analyzed and used to restore and improve service in other areas over the next two school years.

Waikele Elementary has been given special attention, and I’d like to think it is the result of efforts by the school’s Student Leadership Team. The team wrote to me about results of several surveys it had conducted that showed many Waikele students and their families were negatively affected by the cutbacks, and urged legislators to do what they could to restore services. The team’s surveys noted: students had missed days at school because bus service wasn’t available; others had to bike or walk to Waikele and felt “uncomfortable” doing so (many had to cross a freeway exit and a freeway entrance along Paiwa Street); some youngsters were skipping breakfast to get to school on time; and some were staying late on campus waiting for parents to pick them up.

I wrote back to the students and also arranged for a personal meeting with the Student Leadership L’Heureux, assistant superintendent for School Facilities and Support Services for the DOE. The Waikele student experiences will now be part of a more permanent solution to the school transportation system. Waikele students learned valuable lessons about how to make their voices heard.

Waipahu Senior Named National Student Of The Year

As the new school year begins for Waipahu High School, students and teachers are brimming with pride, celebrating the news that senior Juanito Moises was named 2013 National Student of the Year for the GEARUP college prep program.

GEARUP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, has been active at Waipahu High and Intermediate Schools since 2008, tracking and supporting student progress from seventh grade right on into college. Moises’ bio reads like the polished resume of someone poised for great accomplishments: National Honor Society, Science Olympiad, track & field and cross country, the League of Extraordinary Students and much more. He received his award at the GEARUP National Conference in San Francisco last month. Congratulations!

Contact state Senator Kidani at SenKidani@Capitol.Hawaii.gov, or at her State Capitol office, room 228; telephone 586-7100.