Renderings courtesy of ‘Iolani School

Iolani School campus expansion develops new K-12 opportunities

Summit + ‘Iolani School

Oahu K-12 Schools
Text Will Caron
Thread School of the Future

Academic excellence and personal growth flourish in an atmosphere that is challenging and competitive, yet caring and nurturing. Through dynamic and personalized instruction in a multitude of disciplines, 'Iolani develops liberally educated, well-rounded individuals who are well prepared for college and ready to assume their responsibilities as active, moral citizens.

For more than 150 years, ‘Iolani School has fostered academic excellence and personal growth within Hawai‘i youth, first from its original mauka campus in Nu‘uanu, and now from its makai campus just outside of Waikīkī. Through dynamic and personalized instruction in a multitude of disciplines, ‘Iolani develops liberally educated, well-rounded individuals who are well-prepared for college and ready to assume their responsibilities as active, moral citizens.

Founded on Christian values, the culturally diverse, co-educational college preparatory school supports more than 1,900 students in grades K–12. The school has a commitment to providing the best learning environment possible to allow its pupils to flourish in an atmosphere that is challenging and competitive, yet caring and nurturing. Part of this commitment involves building an impressive array of facilities designed to equip students with cutting-edge tools, innovative classroom setups and ergonomic work spaces that incorporate nature and the beauty of Hawai‘i.

In this spirit, ‘Iolani School is expanding its campus to include the development of new classrooms, studios and labs for the Lower School (K–6), as well as the construction of a dormitory to revive the school’s dormant boarding program. The vision represents the culmination of a multiyear strategic planning process—a collaborative effort that included direction from the school’s board of governors, faculty and administration and the G70 architectural firm.

“‘Iolani’s strategic plan articulates a commitment to creating leading-edge facilities and programs that enable students to develop their unique talents and skills,” says Dr. Timothy Cottrell, ‘Iolani’s head of school. “The campus expansion will allow us to accept 24 more students at the kindergarten level, giving more local students an opportunity for an ‘Iolani education.”

‘Iolani’s new Lower School facilities will include an expansive and dedicated K–1 community. The design features 10 classrooms in five buildings that uniquely blend outdoor learning spaces with indoor instructional areas. Each classroom opens onto the center of the community and a large natural playground. The design will bring natural elements indoors, including gardens and treehouse reading spaces built inside of classrooms. The K–1 community will be structured to blend nature and man-made elements and allow creativity, imagination and curiosity thrive.

Teaching space within the new K–1 community will more than double the current available learning area per student in ‘Iolani’s kindergarten and first grade classrooms. With larger classrooms reducing density and encouraging growth, teachers and students will interact in a flexible environment that adapts to their needs, and allows seamless co-teaching and co-learning. Interior spaces—configurable for both individual study and group collaboration—will support multidisciplinary learning and allow educational programs to evolve and keep pace with our ever-changing world.

Construction of the new K–1 community will comprise: five free-standing buildings, each containing two classrooms that more than double the teaching space of the current K–1 classrooms, allowing for a student-to-teacher ratio of 12:1 for kindergarten and 16:1 for first grade; a park-like natural playground encircled by winding covered walkways that will connect the five buildings; and space for an additional 24 kindergarten students, bringing ‘Iolani School’s kindergarten classes to 96 students overall.

“We are very excited that our new K–1 community will enable approximately 30 percent more local students to enter ‘Iolani in kindergarten—the entry point of greatest demand—and experience the nurturing, small school atmosphere and intimate learning environment for which the school is known,” says Jenai Wall, chair of the ‘Iolani School Board of Governors.

“‘Iolani has long recognized the critical role early childhood experiences play in establishing a foundation for lifelong learning. That our new K–1 community will allow more local children to benefit from the school’s commitment to building self-confidence while providing a strong foundation of educational excellence at a very young age is especially meaningful to us,” she adds.

Two additional new multipurpose buildings will be constructed to serve the entire Lower School community. These buildings will include learning labs and studios, which will be connected by a shared performance space. Highlights of these buildings include high-tech science labs, a state-of-the-art maker space and technology center, a religion education classroom, flexible workshop spaces for English and mathematics excellence and dance and music studios.

“Whether it’s project-based learning, hands-on experiments, digital production or live performance, the new Lower School labs and studios will give children in the entire Lower School access to unique spaces that incubate creativity, collaboration and cross-disciplinary learning,” says Cottrell.

In 2017, ‘Iolani will also break ground on an on-campus residence for local, domestic and international students. The completed building will house 112 students in grades 9–12 and will be built where the current head of school residence is located, near the school’s chapel.

Reinstallation of the school’s residential program will also address one of the goals of the Strategic Plan: “To create meaningful, sustainable and reciprocal global relationships that stimulate the exchange of ideas, foster a deeper cultural awareness, and build students’ desire to improve the world around them.”

All ‘Iolani students will benefit from an ability to communicate with—and appreciate the perspectives of—people who come from a wide range of different backgrounds and traditions.

‘Iolani has set a goal for all students to develop the skills to be successful leaders in the competitive global marketplace, while also having the empathy necessary to act effectively in the cause of helping others on an international scale.

“‘Iolani’s residential program will house local, international and mainland students with diverse backgrounds and experiences,” says Cottrell. “An education that includes cross-cultural experiences for all ‘Iolani students will build truly meaningful and relevant competencies for their future careers.”

‘Iolani was originally founded by King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma as a boarding school and housed students from around the world from 1862 through 1959. Currently, more than 50 international students attend ‘Iolani. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, perhaps the school’s most famous alumnus, was a boarding student who graduated in 1882.

“As one of the nation’s premier independent schools, we believe offering a boarding option presents an opportunity for O‘ahu to be positioned as a premier destination for a top college preparatory school education,” adds Cottrell. “‘Iolani’s boarding program marks a significant step in establishing this reputation around the world.”


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