LAHAINA - Kindergarten public school registration for the 2014-15 school year on the West Side is held in February, and parents here have three choices.
King Kamehameha III Elementary School, situated in the heart of Lahaina, is available to students residing makai from Puamana to the end of Front Street and from Kaanapali to Honokohau.
Princess Nahi'ena'ena Elementary School serves the families living mauka of Honoapiilani from Olowalu to Wahikuli.
Students perform at the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program’s Ho‘olaule‘a in May.
The third option, the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program (HLIP), is the path less traveled but offers the youth of West Maui a treasured opportunity.
"We want to remind people that we're here," Kumu Liko Rogers commented.
Kula Kaiapuni O Maui ma Nahi'ena'ena, located on the Princess Nahi'ena'ena campus, is open to all West Side youth regardless of ethnicity or district location.
Currently, there are 67 students enrolled in the immersion program with students in grades K-6, and there are four teachers.
Ka Papahana Kaiapuni Hawaii (Hawaiian Language Immersion Program) was established by the state Department of Education in 1987 and at Princess Nahi'ena'ena in 2000.
Its mission is lofty: "To achieve quality education based on knowledge of Hawaiian language and culture as the foundation upon which individuals become culturally responsive, sensitive and productive adults who contribute significantly to all levels of Hawaii's community and the world."
Language immersion is a method of teaching. Regular school curriculum is taught through the medium of a second language. As students are immersed in the second language, they become fluent speakers at an early age.
Culturally, the benefits are immense.
"Children, who are born and raised here in Hawaii, for them to know the Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian language is to have a sense of identity. For Hawaiians, it helps in identifying themselves with their people, of course," Kumu Rogers said.
"For all children, it helps them have a sense of place and sense of who they really are and where they are from - the culture and the language. It gives a different perspective on life."
Kumu Kauna'oa Garcia is a passionate advocate of the program.
"This Hawaiian Language Immersion Program is culturally important, because the language and culture is vital and interdependent. The language cannot flourish and develop without the culture," she said.
Brandon and Tiara Ueki have two children enrolled in the program, and a third will be attending kindergarten next year at Princess.
Tiara is the president of the parent group, Na Leo Kalele.
"We believe this program benefits our children, because they can learn who they are and where they come from," Tiara said.
Registration at King Kamehameha III Elementary School will be held from Feb. 3-28 on school days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Parents can enroll their keiki at Princess Nahi'ena'ena Elementary School from Feb. 11-14 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Enrollment is for students born before July 31, 2009. Parents should bring to registration the student's birth certificates, TB test results, immunization history and doctor's physical.
For more information, call King Kamehameha III Elementary School at 662-3955 or Princess Nahi'ena'ena at 662-4020.