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Moving to Hawaii: Locating the Best Schools

Research schools in Hawaii before you make the big move. (Image Credit: across.co.nz)

Guest Post by Aloha Living.com

In searching for the perfect Hawaii home, nearby schools are often as important a factor as the number of bedrooms or the view. Hawaii is unique in several ways, from its single statewide public school system to the prominence and size of private schools. Whether you have a family or are thinking of starting one, it pays to research your education options when buying Hawaii real estate.

Honolulu is home to the largest independent school: Punahou School. And Punahou’s alumni rolls are packed with notable leaders in business and politics. U.S. President Barack Obama is the school’s most famous graduate, but AOL founder Steve Case also went to Punahou, as did eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and even Sun Yat-Sen, founder of the Republic of China.

Nestled in a valley amongst a mix of condos and historic single-family homes, Punahou houses over 3,500 students from grades K-12. Admission is fiercely competitive, with only one out of four applicants able to enroll. And the school’s prestige comes at a price: annual tuition is over $16,000.

Punahou’s closest rival is Iolani School, situated just across the way from Waikiki, perhaps the most famous stretch of Honolulu real estate. Also a private school, Iolani is known for its rigorous academics and emphasis on long-term, high-achieving career plans. If you can afford a Waikiki condo, you can probably afford to send your kids across the bridge to Iolani.

There are dozens of other good private schools in Honolulu, including the Mid-Pacific Institute in Manoa (not surprisingly, also home to some of the most expensive Hawaii real estate), and Kamehameha Schools, which focuses its efforts on benefiting students and families of native Hawaiian ancestry. Enrollment there is, obviously, pretty limited.

When it comes to public schools, choosing from among many varied Honolulu neighborhoods becomes even more important. Hawaii’s single, statewide Department of Education brings with it a few advantages, but many challenges, and compared to school systems in the rest of the U.S., it’s fair to say that Hawaii schools lag behind.

Fortunately, some Hawaii public schools have managed to distinguish themselves.

Locally, Honolulu Magazine publishes an annual ‘Grading the Public Schools’ issue that ranks all public schools in the state. And nationally, there are a number of education portals — such as GreatSchools.net — that apply their own scores and rankings to schools.

Three schools stand out in both the Honolulu Magazine and GreatSchools.net rankings.

Moanalua High School was the top-ranked public high school according to the latest report from Honolulu Magazine, and received a 10/10 rating from GreatSchools.net. Moanalua High School is located in Salt Lake, less than seven miles west of downtown. The area is among the most densely populated areas on Oahu, packed with a wide array of condo complexes.

Mililani High School also fared well in the school rankings, and it’s also one of the largest high schools in the state, with an enrollment of about 2,500. It’s located in Mililani in central O’ahu, the state’s largest planned community. Mililani is a large suburb widely known for being great for families, with thousands of single-family homes and townhomes. The commute into town is long, but the trip is often worth it to those seeking a safe community with great schools, parks, recreation centers and shopping.

Finally, there’s Kalani High School in East Honolulu, the last of the three public high schools to earn a 10/10 GreatSchools.net rating. In terms of enrollment, it’s half the size of Mililani. But because of its location near Kahala, its students generally come from more prosperous homes. East Honolulu real estate is among the state’s most coveted, and a Kahala home is often a sure sign of success.

When you’re ready to buy a Hawaii home, perhaps to start a new career or to retire, it pays to research what the area has to offer the next generation. AlohaLiving.com — a Hawaii real estate search portal powered by trusted MLS data — can help you start your search. The site includes a wide variety of neighborhood information, including school data from GreatSchools.net. Look up profiles on public and private schools, including test scores, reviews and more.

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