Kua O Ka Lā Charter School: From Surviving to Thriving

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VIDEO: Kua O Ka Lā students produced this video about losing their school. 

One year ago tomorrow, on July 11, 2018, the lava from Kīlauea eruption, crept along the Puna coast and consumed Kua O Ka Lā New Century Public Charter School in Pāhoa, which served the community’s students for 16 years.

Kua O Ka Lā Charter School was the only school taken by the lava on the Big Island.

“Many of our families have endured trauma from the impacts of the lava and the school continues to offer critical support in providing nurturing social, emotional and behavioral support alongside its academic program,” said Principal Kapoula Thompson.

The Kua O Ka Lā New Century Public Charter School campus was lost to lava on July 11, 2018.


But they’re moving forward at Kua O Ka La, and in the process, setting a real-life example for students on how to survive and thrive.

Kua O Ka Lā serves 250 Pre-K to grade 12 students which, include a hybrid online program called “Hipu‘u.” Many innovative initiatives have continued and emerged this past year.

Hipu‘u (hybrid online) students produced two Hiki Nō PBS documentaries last school year. One featured Kehau Springer, a young woman dedicated to the preservation of Hawaiʻi’s precious marine ecosystems. Hiki Nō Episode 1016’s top story featured the “Return of the ʻAlalā.”

New Kua O Ka Lā site at Nani Mau Gardens, July 2019.

The main campus partnered with OPEN (One Planet Education Network), an international organization focusing on real-world case studies in sustainable agriculture, forestry and emergency services including volcanoes and earthquakes.


Students of Kua O Ka Lā also met and worked online with students in the Congo region with a city of 1.5 million living persons below Mt. Nyiragongo, a very active volcano.

“We are grateful to the Rotary Club of Pāhoa and Hilo and all organizations and individuals who have contributed endless hours of service, resources and monetary contributions to ensure Kua O Ka Lā was able to continue serving our students and survive through this difficult year,” Traub said.

Kua O Ka Lā Charter School. PC: Kua O Ka Lā website

Donations were also collected through a gofundme page and a fundraiser concert with headliner Makana at the Palace Theater in Hilo.

All donations have gone directly to supporting facilities and to student and family needs, such as school uniforms, school supplies and food.


Kua O Ka Lā is currently taking applications for its preschool in Nanawale at Pu‘ula Church, grades K to 8 at Nani Mau Gardens in Panaewa and serving students around the island in grades K to 8 through its blended online Hīpuʻu program.

Head of School Susie Osborne says she is “looking forward to next year by securing a permanent campus and continuing to provide innovative real-world local and global opportunities for our most precious resource—our students.”

Kua O Ka Lā Public Charter School. PC: Kua O Ka Lā website

Transportation is available to the Hilo location.

Kua O Ka Lā continues to work closely with Hawai‘i County, which is overseeing the disaster relief funds in addressing the short-term compliance needs and pressing long term need of securing a permanent facility for the school.

For more information or to enroll, go online or call (808) 933-0800.

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