We’ve received this question via our e-mailbox quite a few times so rather than a traditional blog post, we’ll answer it here for everyone.
Chuck and Kirsten,
I wanted to get some more information about schools in Hawaii.
I know that you have said that your kids attend Holualoa Elementary and that you are happy with it. However, I’m curious if you are able to volunteer at the school so you can get an insider’s perspective of the school?
Also, I read that you have moved out of the school boundary but are still able to continue going there and was wondering you how you are able to do that?
Lastly, I’m concerned about kids being isolated or picked on and if they feel like an “outsider” or have problems with kids of another ethnic background.
We have to apply for a geographic exception to keep the kids at Holualoa Elementary. We won’t actually know that outcome until July, right before school. That said, we’d be at Kahakai Elementary if that doesn’t work out and it sounds like that school is fine as well.
As far as how the school is overall, some teachers have a reputation for focusing their attention on the laggard kids because they get measured by how many pass standards. Others supposedly don’t care anymore and don’t make themselves available to parents easily.
However, both teachers we had this past year were great, so at least our direct experience was good. They allowed each kid to learn at their own pace so kids that were able to read ahead of their peers, were allowed to move ahead levels and keep advancing. Kids that were behind also got to move at their own speed. Kona also has private schools and charter schools (which have a wait list), so there are alternatives if you don’t like your assigned public school.
In answer to the “outsider” question, our whole island is only 30% Hawaiian, and white is the largest racial group, so unless you move to certain rural pockets, you’ll probably have an equal mix of white, Hawaiian, and Asian in class.
We’ve heard that the outsider stuff is mostly applicable to older kids – middle schoolers and high schoolers are bound to fight about something and sometimes race is a dividing line, as it can be in almost any school. But they’re likely to have a blend of all types of backgrounds at their school.
Our kids have made friends of all types. The biggest adjustment has been leaving their old friends and starting something new. I’d recommend getting involved in Scouts and sports as soon as possible – we mistakenly waited about 6 months before doing that stuff.
No guarantees, but it’s all good so far. If you were to choose not to move here, I wouldn’t let schools/kids be the reason.