7th DOE Hawaiian immersion program opens in Waimanalo
A push to help strengthen Hawaiian language in one of O'ahu's largest Hawaiian homestead communities is gaining traction.
For the first time, Blanche Pope Elementary School in Waimanalo is offering curriculum strictly in Hawaiian. Its now the Department of Education’s seventh Hawaiian immersion program on O`ahu.
Junior Coleman's 6-year-old daughter Ihi’ihilauakea is one of 24 students enrolled this school year. Last year, Coleman’s wife and another parent advocated to open an immersion program at the elementary and brought it to faculty's attention.
“It made a lot of sense to bring our language right into our community and have that available for our keiki,” Coleman said.
Pope School is located in the heart of Hawaiian homelands in Waimanalo.
Right now the program's only open to kindergartners and first graders. Staff say the goal is to expand classes in the years to come so it can be offered to all grade levels.
“We hope that word can get out and gain community interest -- even get people who are beyond Waimanalo to be interested in joining our school community,” said Principal Aaron Okumura.
Teaching younger keiki a second language can be a challenge but Kumu Jonah Chang-Purdy says specific techniques can make all the difference.
“Repetition and fun that's the main thing. We sing lots of songs. If its an every day kind of thing then they'll use it,” Chang-Purdy said.
According to the DOE, launching Hawaiian immersion programs at other campuses is possible but the initial request must either come from the school principal or members of the community.