- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - The state Public Charter School Commission on Thursday took the first step toward closing a financially troubled Hawaiian culture-based school.

The commission voted 6-2 to begin shutting down Halau Lokahi Public Charter School in Kalihi. The school has 30 days to appeal the decision. If upheld, it would be the first time a Hawaii charter is revoked, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (https://ow.ly/H4uhP ) reported.

The vote ends a long struggle to save the school, which stopped paying rent and salaries and ran up $500,000 in debt before the end of last school year.

The commission required the school to replace its governing board and longtime director, founder Laara Allbrett. School officials pledged to restructure by firing the entire staff and hiring a smaller faculty.

The school also faced an investigation by the state attorney general for suspected money laundering and theft.

Commissioners on Thursday also approved withholding funding from the school, except for money needed to dissolve and close the kindergarten through 12th grade campus.

A school-improvement consultant who was named acting director of the school couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Commission Executive Director Tom Hutton said his office had already been in “quiet talks” with other Hawaiian-focused charter schools and other nearby public schools for possible placement of Halau Lokahi students. “As painful as a school closure decision is, the commission staff has labored mightily over a lot of months to try to see if there’s a way to get this thing turned around,” he said.

Students had been scheduled to return from winter break on Tuesday.

Hutton said his staff will immediately begin reaching out to parents of the school’s 114 students to help find alternatives.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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