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Schools of Choice at HYCF
In 1986, the League of Women Voters and other community groups successfully lobbied the state legislature for funding to establish a year-round-school at the Hawai'i Youth Correctional Facility. Over the intervening two years an in-house-improvement committee comprised of the principal, Catherine Payne; vice-president, Estelle Wong, teacher, Barbara Fuller; two juvenile wards; and myself, as League representative, have been working to develop a high-interest, interdisciplinary, application-oriented year-round program. The result of the committee's work was four schools-within-a-school, called teams, which were launched during this summer's session from June to August.
The themes that the teachers chose for their teams were: Epidemics, Metal Shop, The Voyage of the Mimi (study of whales), and Hawaiiana through Horticulture and Art. Each program included the integrated study of language arts, math, science, social studies, and guidance. There were many field trips for most of the students, as well as a host of specialists who came as visiting teachers. Each team was composed of three to five teachers (some part-time) and seventeen students.
The students and teachers were able to identify the program that they wanted to work in, which definitely impressed the kids. Each team was run very differently depending on the needs of the course of study, the utilization-of-resources constraints, and what would work best for students and staff.
This summer's program was an undeniable success. At the close of the summer session Olomana School's first (ever!) open house was held. The students demonstrated and explained their team's activities and proudly showed off their products to a nice gathering of parents, educators, community people, and state agency people.
It was a thrill to see the changes that have occurred at Olomana School. They have started their fall session, again with four schools-withina-school and teachers and students getting to make choices. This effort took great courage and work on the part of the entire staff, and they are to be congratulated and encouraged in their endeavor to provide a real opportunity for redirection and success for Hawai'i's incarcerated youth.