How To Enroll In School in Hawaii

Are you wondering how to enroll in school in Hawaii?

If you are moving to Hawaii with children, you’ll need to figure out where to send them to school. When I moved to Kauai in June 2015, one of the things I researched ahead of time was how to enroll in school in Hawaii.  I already knew what island I was moving to, but I did not know where I’d be living yet or how to get my daughter in school.  

There are several different options if you want to enroll in school in Hawaii, (at least on Kauai where I live) and if you decide to use public school, you’ll need to know what area you are zoned for. 

I decided to actually write about my experience in hopes that is could be useful to other parents considering the move and wondering about school, or already on the way and not sure how to navigate the system.

Helpful sites when enrolling in school on Kauai specifically

The following site is very helpful in determining the district or zone for your new address and at least gives you and idea of what school will be zoned for your child.  

I initially was trying to find a home according to the school, but it ended up the other way around and we ended up at the school zoned in our area.

Enrolling your child in School

 It might just be me, but I wasn’t clear on exactly how I was supposed to get my daughter in school.  I didn’t have friends here and no one to really ask so I called the school. The following might be helpful to you as well


As with most schools, when you look at how to enroll in school in Hawaii, you need to consider health requirements.

I wish I had taken care of some of this before getting to the island when we moved here.  We were in a scramble to get into a pediatrician as well as getting school documents from her old school to get her registered in time for school which starts beginning of August. (it was mid July already)

This site helps you know what your kids need and answers some basic questions

and NOTE, you will need to get your child a TB test if it’s their first year in a Hawaiian school. (yes, I’m serious)

Moving to Hawaii didn’t end the Moving:

As of the writing of this post, it had been a little over one year since we moved to Kauai and I’ve moved 3 times: from 1 month rental to 6 month rental to now a rental with a 1 year lease. 

I added this heading because I now have also had the pleasure of finding out how to withdraw a child from one school and getting her into a new school. 

When I found out I had to move in April, I was challenged with finding a new home that was in the same area we were living and I started looking island wide.  My additional challenge is that I have two pets ( 1 dog,1 cat) and needed to find someone comfortable with a big dog. 

At that time, the only thing I could find and get approved for (a whole other blog post) was a home in Kapaa (Wailua Homesteads)

This is great, except it meant my daughter could no longer attend her school, Chiefess Kamakahele.  

I also found out that even had I been willing to drive my daughter to and from school every day (about 30 minutes each way), the school we were in wouldn’t allow it as they were full to capacity. 

Getting To School Once Enrolled

Now that you know how to enroll in school in Hawaii, you have to get there.
As with most mainland school districts, there are buses available for students that need transportation to school. What I found odd was that you will pay for that transportation.  Unlike Las Vegas Schools (where we moved from) busing to school does not come free with public school. 

For me personally, I found it worth the fee as I don’t commute to work so taking her to and from school would have been costly in gas and time. 

At our home in Koloa, my daughter caught  the bus at about 6:15 am at the library across the street and due to after school tutoring, was home about 5:45 pm at same stop. 

Once we moved to Kapaa, catching the bus was a little later and Kapaa Middle School did not have after school tutoring so she was home much earlier. 

TIPS: for paying for the bus 

Here’s what I learned a little late, but when I finally did, I took advantage of it

  • Pay your bus cost by quarter/ semester.  Unless you own, or have a long term lease, you just don’t know if you’ll end up moving during the school year and there are no refunds.
  • If your child ends up at after school activities (CKMS had a free program called ASAP), be sure to find out if they offer free bus transportation.  Turns out, I was paying for afternoon fare only to learn 1/2 way through the year,  it was free because my daughter went to ASAP.  This took an about $70-80 semester bill down to $36 because I only paid for morning.  I was then able to buy coupons for any time my daughter might need to come home on the afternoon bus and not stay for ASAP (Dr. appointments, something special, etc)
  • Have your child guard that bus pass with their life.  I never experienced it with mine, but I heard they won’t let the kid on the bus without one and I wasn’t willing to find out first hand. (my daughter kept hers with her school id around her neck on a lanyard)

 Stay on top of things if your child has an IEP, 504, or other special accommodation

I wasn’t thinking about this when I researched how to enroll in school in Hawaii, or when actually moving to Hawaii so I didn’t have my paperwork ready.  I did have it in my shipped stuff, but had to search through it all to find it.  Mine was on an IEP for learning and some help with speech and never got formal help during her first year in school.  About the time they got around to “updating it” school was about to be out and well, nothing ever got done. 

My daughter didn’t want me to make waves so I held back and didn’t push. 

Fortunately, I was able to get her helped at her new school once we switched schools with no new IEP in place and will be more on top if. FORTUNATELY, my daughter did very well and I was able to work with teachers to have her sit up front, and other things to make sure she wasn’t more challenged than need be. 

Here is a site I will be brushing up on to make sure my daughter is given what she needs to make sure she achieved success at school:

School Uniforms

I’ve only had experience with two middle schools here on Kauai since moving here so I can’t speak for other schools.  Turns out, uniforms are somewhat needed as students are required to wear school shirts that are color coded by grade.  Not a bad thing, but it will be an added fee.  Frankly, I couldn’t see washing midweek so we got once shirt for each day – it’s also pretty much warm her all year-long so we sweat. 

Pants, shorts, or skirts are allowed and can be what the child prefers as long as within school guidelines. (length, no tears, etc) Something that we got to enjoy recently is being able to order our shirts online and having them shipped home, or ready at orientation. 

School Lunch

I never ate school lunch but my daughter was able to enjoy both breakfast and lunch daily and enjoyed it. Frankly, with cost of groceries and the time she had to be on the bus each day, it was far easier and more cost-effective to pay for school lunch. 

School Supplies

Again, I’ll be speaking from experience here on Kauai and from the standpoint of being behind the 8 ball the first year because we didn’t take on the registration process until right before school started. 

I didn’t know where to find the school supply list, we missed all the early registration stuff and only learned about orientation the day before.  I did find out that school supplies go fast (only a few stores to buy from on Kauai – Wal-Mart & Kmart and some stuff at Costco) 

This year, we already have a school supply list and things were being sold at Wal-Mart mid June.  We’ll be getting ours ASAP for School start date of August 2nd. 

As with most schools nationwide, public schools here need help with supplies so I saw no difference in that. 

PE is an elective

I did not know this until just going down to register my daughter for her new school: PE is an elective in Hawaii (at least Middle school on Kauai) 
Last year, I bought her PE clothing thinking she’d eventually have it since it is required for at least one semester in Las Vegas. 

When we finally got her school class list, PE was never on it.  We never asked why and I have 2 sets of untouched PE clothes. 

As I go to register her this year, I ask about PE and I’m finally told, no need to buy those clothes unless she picked PE. I assure you, she did NOT!  lol 

I guess I get it…after all, Hawaii is one of the most active places to live and it felt like going back in time when we got here because kids play outside, people run, ride bikes, hike, run marathons, and swim and play in the ocean, kayak, paddle board, row canoes, you name it. It’s a physically active lifestyle. 

Update: High school does require PE and they offer summer school if you don’t mind going for 8 hours a day for a few weeks. 

Not much more to say about moving to Hawaii and enrolling in school

I believe I have just about covered it for this post.  I’m sure I could add a lot more if I got my daughters input, and soon, I hope to encourage her to write about her experiences in moving here.  Wouldn’t that be cool to hear how a 12-year-old, blue-eyed blond experience moving from the desert to the ocean. 

If you have any specific questions about how to enroll in school in Hawaii and I didn’t cover it here, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly.  

Until my next post, 



ps.. please not that anything I share here is simply my experience and my perspective and no way indicative of how things will be for you. This is  merely me sharing what I saw in hopes it helps others navigate the move. 😀

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