Higher enrollment brings challenges and changes to WHS

With 2,777 students, Waipahu High School (WHS) is now the second-largest public school in Hawaii after James Campbell High School, which has 3,077 students.

For the past few years, WHS’s student enrollment has been on the rise.

WHS registrar Steve Miyashiro said that the school’s projected enrollment for this year was initially estimated to be 2,713 students.

Miyashiro said one reason behind the enrollment increase could be, “We’re always on the news; it’s always positive news about the students.”

Miyashiro and WHS Principal Keith Hayashi shared that more students who live in Waipahu are opting to enroll at WHS rather than enrolling in private schools or submitting geographic exception forms to attend schools in other areas as they may have done in the past.

WHS is increasingly known for accomplishments in different programs ranging from academics to athletics.

WHS has two nationally accredited academies, the Academy of Health and Sciences and the Academy of Natural Resources, and aims to have all academies become nationally accredited in the near future.

The Early College program provides a way for WHS students to earn college credits during high school, with some students earning Associate in Arts or Associate in Science degrees before they earn their high school diplomas.

The athletics program also achieved a major feat last year as the Marauder football team won the HHSAA Division I championship.

Hayashi also shared challenges that come with the enrollment increase.

“We have great things going on at Waipahu, so students and families want to come here. At the same time, I’m also concerned that unless we can increase our facility capacity, class sizes are going to go up. As class sizes increase, it gets more and more difficult for teachers because they’re responsible for more students,” he said.

However, a major addition to campus will accommodate the influx of students. WHS will be breaking ground on a new building next year.

“Having a new building is going to help with that. If our enrollment continues to increase, the need for additional facilities is going to be there. I’m really happy to have a great legislative team supporting us,” Hayashi said.

The first phase of the building’s construction would serve as the Hawaii Department of Education’s first integrated academy building. The second phase would include several general classrooms.

The first floor of the new building would accommodate the Academy of Natural Resources with their own grow lab.

Its second floor would include a computer lab and innovation lab, and accommodate classes such as chemistry and biochemistry.

The third floor would accommodate culinary and hospitality classes, with enough space for a 100-seater restaurant.

Other plans for accommodating more students on campus in the future include expanding parking in addition to building such as the library and cafeteria.