Childcare and Education
For families with children, one of the highest priorities when moving to a new city is finding quality childcare and quality schools. The task can be a daunting one when moving to Honolulu because, like many other quickly growing areas, there are hundreds of childcare options and a large number of public schools and private schools from which to choose.
Childcare and education options can significantly influence where you and your family purchase your home, especially if you’re choosing to enroll your children in a public school where location determines which school your child will attend. As such, it’s advisable to begin researching childcare and education options as early as possible. Below is a collection of resources that can be valuable in your research. They include a number of local and national agencies and other Web sites that provide tips and suggestions, maintain comprehensive directories, or operate helpful hotlines in addition to other services.
Please note that the inclusion of businesses, schools, agencies, and other service providers in this chapter are not an endorsement of any kind. To ensure your child receives the best care or education, never underestimate the value of thoroughly researching childcare centers, agencies, and schools.
When it comes to childcare in Honolulu and the surrounding areas, families are not without their options, and more often than not, it’s not finding quality childcare that’s the issue. Rather, it’s narrowing down the options and then picking the ‘right’ option for you that can be tricky and overwhelming.
Luckily, there are some terrific resources available to families new to the area that can help bring the daunting task down to a more manageable level. A great place to start is PATCH, 650 Iwilei Road, Suite 205, Honolulu, 96817, 808-839-1988, www.patchhawaii.org. PATCH, according to its Web site, is a non-profit “advocacy agency [created] to improve the availability and accessibility of quality childcare programs in Hawaii.” PATCH offers a free searchable online database of childcare centers and providers, while a comprehensive list of all childcare providers is available by request. Referrals can also be made over the phone. PATCH’s comprehensive Web site also provides links to nanny referral services and wide-reaching parenting information, including state resources touching on a variety of issues. Special services are available to military families (www.patchhawaii.org/families/military).
Whether you’re considering a family daycare home, a childcare center, or a church-organized daycare, there are numerous options in and around Honolulu. For a comprehensive list of businesses offering childcare services, look under ‘Child Care’ and ‘Day Care Centers & Nurseries’ in the Yellow Pages. An extensive list of facilities can also be found at www.thestateofhawaii.com/child-care.
Honolulu offers a number of different types of daycare options ranging from small-group environments to preschools to more typical childcare centers. All licensed facilities must meet minimum safety, staff, and adult-child ratio requirements. Licensing oversight for child care providers (usually required by law for 3 or more unrelated children) is conducted by the Department of Human Services (http://hawaii.gov/dhs/self-sufficiency/childcare/services). The Honolulu unit is:
Child Care Connection Hawaii Unit I
Pohulani Elderly Housing Project
677 Queen St., Room 400A
Honolulu, HI 96813
Childcare options are licensed according to three main classifications. The licensing standards for each are available at http://daycare.com/hawaii. PATCH provides a helpful grid considering the pros and cons of these three types (www.patchhawaii.org/files/content/families/licensing/
- Family Childcare Homes are operated out of a childcare provider’s home. State law limits the capacity for a licensed family childcare home to six children, of whom no more than two children can be under 18 months of age. With an additional worker, there can be as many as four children can be under 18 months.
- Childcare Centers include day nurseries, preschool/nursery school groups, preschool child play groups, parent cooperatives, drop-in childcare centers, and group childcare homes. Honolulu is home to numerous privately owned childcare centers as well as chain childcare centers. Some of the better-known Hawaiian childcare chains available in Honolulu include: The Cole Academy (www.thecoleacademy.com), Rainbow Schools (http://rainbowschools.com), Kama’aina Kids (www.kamaainakids.com), and Seagull Schools (http://seagullschools.com), which operates the Early Education Center in Honolulu.
- ‘License Exempt’ programs are not monitored by the state. These include programs that promote native Hawaiian language, whose staff members are exempt from usual staff training requirements. Someone who provides care for up to two children not related to the provider is also exempt.
Questions to Ask
Regardless of what type of daycare center you’re considering, there are basic questions you’ll want to ask to evaluate the quality of care your children will receive and whether it’s the right fit for your child and your family.
- Childcare provider and/or the childcare center manager: Licensing merely means the center or provider has met minimal state requirements. You will need to investigate further to determine whether the program satisfies your other requirements. A very useful downloadable pdf file is available from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (http://uhfamily.hawaii.edu/
publications/ChildCare/ChildcareTextnCover.pdf). This brochure, entitled “Choosing Childcare,” includes detailed questions to ask and worksheets for screening childcare sites. Child Care Aware (www.childcareaware.org/en/resources/pubs.php) also has a number of downloadable brochures on choosing quality childcare, including care for special needs children. These are available in English and Spanish. This Web site contains other useful tools for making your childcare decisions, including a detailed work sheet for budgeting childcare (partners.leadfusion.com/tools/naccrra/
- Other parents: Don’t be afraid to ask other parents what their experiences have been like. Ask questions about what they like and dislike about the center’s program and procedures, the dependability of the childcare provider, and whether they and their children feel comfortable at the center or home.
- Yourself: You are first and foremost looking for a childcare option that fits what your family and your child need. Make sure you carefully consider how your family’s schedules and, more importantly, values fit into the structure of the childcare center’s programs.
Families who choose nannies as their primary childcare providers often point to the one-on-one attention and flexibility that’s commonly associated with having a nanny (as compared to daycare centers or other group settings) as some of the most important reasons behind their choice. But this one-on-one attention does come at a price.
According to a 2006 survey released by the International Nanny Association, a private non-profit organization, full-time live-in nannies in the Pacific region, including Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington State, and Alaska, earned an average of over $600 per week. Actual salaries vary widely based on where the family lives and the nanny’s experience. In addition, families who directly employ nannies are required by federal law to pay Social Security tax and sometimes state unemployment taxes on the nanny’s salary. In-home nanny care is not licensed or regulated by the Hawaiian Department of Human Services.
Nanny Placement Services
If you’re a first-time nanny seeker or prefer services that help you prescreen nanny candidates, placement agencies can help with the logistics of finding a nanny for your family. These agencies screen candidates and perform background checks. Even so, always verify the status of these checks with the agency before hiring any nanny. Agencies do require placement fees, deposits, and sometimes other fees for their services. Contact the agency directly for detailed information on their fees and requirements.
- Aloha Nannies, 808-394-5434, 350 Ward Avenue, Suite #106-29, Honolulu, 96814, www.alohanannies.com
- Care Options, 1221 Kapiolani Blvd. Suite 6-E, Honolulu, 96814, 808-593-CARE, www.careopts.com
- Your Child’s Nanny, 888-85-NANNY, www.yourchildsnanny.com/hawaii.php
Finding a Nanny on Your Own
If you prefer to find a nanny on your own, there are a number of resources at your disposal:
- 4EverythingNanny.com, www.4nanny.com; provides helpful how-to articles and a classified ads section
- International Nanny Association, 888-878-1477, www.nanny.org; provides helpful tools for your nanny search and hiring process
- NannyAnswers.com, www.nannyanswers.com; a catch-all Web site for frequently asked questions about nannies
- Nanny Locators.com, www.nannylocators.com; features advertisements of people seeking nanny positions.
- eNannySource, www.enannysource.com; also features advertisements.
As mentioned above, families who do not use placement agencies but rather directly employ nannies are expected to pay taxes on the salaries paid to their nannies. The ‘Nanny Tax,’ as it is called, includes Social Security and Medicare taxes and federal unemployment tax. You may also be required to pay state unemployment taxes and/or state disability taxes.
There are several Web sites and agencies that can guide you through the particulars of the Nanny Tax and help you determine how much Nanny Tax you owe. Some resources include:
- Internal Revenue Service, www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc756.html
- The Nanny Tax Company, 800-747-9826, www.nannytaxprep.com; provides tax-filing services
- NannyTax Inc., 888-NANNYTAX, www.nannytax.com; provides tax-filing services
The terms ‘au pair’ and ‘nanny’ are often used interchangeably, but there are notable differences between the two. As such, while a nanny may be a good fit for one family, an au pair may be a better fit for another.
Au pairs are typically between the ages of 18 and 26 and usually remain with a family for one year. Unlike nannies, au pairs aren’t necessarily seeking professional careers in childcare; their yearlong commitment provides work experience but also functions as a cultural exchange program. Families with au pairs act as ‘host families’; the au pair provides childcare, and in return, the host family provides room, board, use of a vehicle, and a small stipend. Host families are also encouraged to facilitate continued education of the au pair while he/she is working in the U.S. Compensation for au pairs can be considerably less than nannies, ranging from $176.85 to $250 per week (approximately $9,000 to $13,000 per year, respectively).
Agencies that can assist with au pair screening and placement include:
- Au Pair in America, 800-928-7247, www.aupairinamerica.com
- AuPairCare Live-In Childcare, 800-428-7247, www.aupaircare.com
- Cultural Care Au Pair, 800-333-6056, www.culturalcare.com
- GreatAupair, 775-215-5770, www.greataupair.com
- InterExchange AuPair USA, 1-800-AUPAIRS, www.aupairusa.org
Babysitting is no longer just a neighborhood business; babysitting is now big business, which can be both good and bad for newcomer families.
The best babysitters are usually ones suggested by close friends of coworkers, but if you’re new to the area, those solid referrals may be hard to come by—at least in the beginning. The growth of babysitting as a business, however, has given rise to a slew of babysitting agencies that will screen potential babysitters and narrow the field for your family. This can be a great way to find a babysitter if you’re new to the area.
These agencies can be helpful resources, but know that they all charge fees for their services, whether it’s a one-time ‘finders’ fee or a membership fee to browse their pool of potential babysitters. Contact each agency for specific details on fees and memberships.
The state Web site www.daycare.com/hawaii/ provides contact information and comprehensive information about the requirements for a daycare center in the state. Some local and national babysitter-finder agencies include:
- www.Care.com; a database of sitters, nannies, and other in-home service providers
- Sitters Unlimited, P.O. Box 88505, Honolulu, 96830, 808-674-8440, www.sittershawaii.com
- Keiki Sitters, www.keikisitters.com
- Sittercity, 888-748-2489, www.sittercity.com; provides large database of local babysitters
If you prefer to avoid the added fees for these services, community bulletin boards are places that teens often use to advertise their babysitting services or that parents can use to advertise a babysitter opening. Churches, synagogues, or other faith-based organizations might also be helpful resources.
Tapping into the local population of college students may also prove to be helpful. The University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawai’i Pacific University, and Chaminade University of Honolulu are all four-year universities located in Honolulu, and they more than likely have a number of students looking for small side jobs. Checking in with the student employment service, posting fliers around campus, or running an ad in the college paper are all ways to find potential babysitters. Remember to request references for each candidate and to conduct your own thorough interview before hiring any babysitter.
Once you’ve found a babysitter, now comes the all-important question of how much to pay them. Sittercity.com offers a Rate Calculator ((babysitters.sittercity.com/rate_calculator.html), which calculates an approximate rate based on geographic location, age of the babysitter, number of children that will be cared for, and the babysitter’s experience. For example, according the calculator, a 20-year-old babysitter with two to four years experience should be paid approximately $12.50 per hour to care for two children in Honolulu (zip code 96814).
More and more, families face the question of elder care. Information about elder care in Honolulu can be found at Pohulani Elderly Housing Project, located at 677 Queen Street, Room 400, Honolulu, Hawaii 96713, 808-587-5266.
There are two parenting magazines available in Hawaii. Island Family magazine, www.islandfamilymagazine.com, is distributed monthly through schools, doctor’s offices, Longs Drugs, and other retail locations. Its Web site includes a calendar of family-friendly events. Island Family is owned by PacificBasin Communications, which also publishes Honolulu Magazine, www.honolulumagazine.com, in conjunction with the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, Honolulu Magazine also publishes an annual Private School Guide.
Hawaii Parent, www.hawaii-parent.com, magazine publishes six issues per year and is distributed through schools and daycares, hospitals, supermarkets, libraries, and numerous retail and organizational offices. Some past issues are available on their Web site.
Here are some resources with which to begin your school research:
- Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS), Ala Moana Pacific Center, 1585 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1212, Honolulu 96814, 808-973-1540, www.hais.org, lists 36 member schools in Honolulu. Not all independent schools are members.
- Honolulu Magazine, www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/May-2008/Grading-the-Public-Schools508/2008-Public-Schools-Database/index.php provides a report card for all public schools in Hawaii.
- Hawaii State PTSA, 765 Amana St., Suite 308, Honolulu, 96814, 808-943-2042, www.hawaiistateptsa.com
- Project Appleseed, www.projectappleseed.org, is a campaign dedicated to improving public education. Its Web site includes helpful tips for evaluating public schools.
- Hawaii’s Public Schools, Department of Education, http://doe.k12.hi.us, P.O. Box 2360, Honolulu, 96804; Physical address: 1390 Miller St, Honolulu, 96813, 808-586-3230.
Hawaii administers a single statewide school district comprised of 289 schools (including 31 charter schools and two special schools) on seven islands. With a total enrollment of nearly 178,000 students, it is the 10th largest school district in the United States. There are administrative offices in seven geographic locations, including Honolulu.
Public schools in Hawaii are grouped into ‘complexes,’ which consist of a high school and the middle and elementary schools that feed into it. As many as four complexes are then grouped into a ‘complex area,’ supervised by a complex area superintendent. Oahu has nine complex areas; a map of them is available at http://doe.k12.hi.us/
myschool/map_oahu.htm. There are 39 elementary schools in Honolulu, nine middle schools, six high schools, and two special schools (the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and Blind, and Anuenue, a school promoting and perpetuating native Hawaiian language and culture). Hawaii is very proud of its ethnic and cultural diversity, which is represented and celebrated in the public school system.
The Department of Education of Hawaii has adopted a system of furlough days in order to address its budget shortfalls. In 2009-2010 teachers at non-charter, public schools were required to take between 17 and 24 days furlough, depending on their particular employee status. In the 2010-2011, furlough days were reduced to six, indicating that the economic health of the state school system has improved. These are known as Furlough Fridays, and they have been incorporated into the school year calendar. They have also resulted in daycare nightmares for working parents. A number of special programs have arisen to address the special daycare need on those days.
Because of budgetary constraints, Honolulu students in grades 6 – 12 must live at least 1.5 miles from school to qualify for school bus service. High school students living on select city bus routes are expected to use the city buses. The school bus fare is $60 per quarter. The city bus pass youth fare is $25.00 per month for unlimited use.
Students with special needs comprise 52 percent of all public school students. This fact, too, poses fiscal and pedagogic challenges for the school system.
Registering Your Children
Hawaii’s Compulsory Attendance Law mandates that all children aged 6 to 18 years old be required to attend school, unless they have an approved exception. The After-School Plus (A+) program provides after-school programming at all elementary schools for 20,000 latchkey children.
Children who will be five years old on or before August 1, may enroll in regular kindergarten, while children who reach five years of age between August 2 and December 31 may enroll in junior kindergarten.
- To register your child for school, you will need the following documentation:
- Birth certificate
- Proof of current address
- Certificate of release and proficiency from the last school attended
- IEP (Individualized Education Plan, for special needs children), if necessary
- Current medical records, including:
- Examination by a licensed physician within 12 months of date entering school;
- A tuberculosis clearance test (Mantoux) performed in the U.S. within the last 12 months;
- Immunizations: DTaP/DTP/Td (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), Polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), Hepatitis B, Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b, for children under 5), varicella (chicken pox).
Public schools play a critical role in many families’ home-buying decisions. All parents want their children to excel in school, and to be comfortable in their learning environments. The ultimate question is: how do you determine which school is best for your child?
The Accountability Resource Center Hawaii (ARCH), provides ‘School Status and Improvement Reports,’ which can be accessed by clicking on the school’s name at http://arch.k12.hi.us/school/ssir/2009/honolulu.html. Honolulu magazine performed its own assessment of public school grades, available at www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/May-2008/Grading-the-Public-Schools508. Further information about complexes and neighborhood demographics can be found at http://uhfamily.hawaii.edu/Cof_Data/profiles/profiles.asp.
But a word of caution about so-called ‘school report cards’: While the school data provided by report cards are indeed helpful, it’s important not to solely base your decision on these numbers as raw numbers don’t always tell the whole story.
According to Project Appleseed, in addition to considering your family’s lifestyle and your child’s personality, a number of factors should be considered when evaluating a school:
- School philosophy as outlined in the school’s statement of philosophy or mission statement
- Instructional approaches
- School facilities/personnel resources
- School policies
- School reputation
- School safety
- Family and community involvement issues
Many of these factors can be evaluated by looking at the school’s Web site and by personally visiting the school you and your family are considering. Contact each individual school to discuss the options for a possible on-campus visit. Moreover, don’t underestimate the value of asking neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers about their experiences with the schools their children attend.
For parents looking for a public-education alternative to traditional public schools, charter schools are a good option to consider. Charter schools are public schools with limited enrollment, and they often incorporate characteristics associated with private-school education, such as smaller class sizes or rigorous curriculum for college- and university-bound students. Hawaii’s charter schools are exempt from the furlough days imposed on other Hawaiian public schools.
Funded with public money, charters are not required to meet all the rules and regulations of traditional public schools but are subject to accountability for producing certain academic results among their students. Because charter schools receive public money, they do not charge tuition. However, each school does have an admissions process. The particulars of the process vary from charter school to charter school, but the basic process is the same: Students and their families submit an application to the school(s) of their choice. Students meeting the admission requirements for the school are then entered into a lottery, and numbers are picked at random to determine which students will be granted available openings. For admission requirements and for particulars on each school’s admission process, it’s best to check each school’s Web site for details. A directory of all 31 Hawaiian charter schools is available at the Charter School Administrative Office, www.hcsao.org/
Private and Parochial Schools
After much consideration, some parents decide a private or parochial school is the best option for their child. There are a wide range of private and parochial school offerings in Honolulu. They include both large and small school settings and both religiously affiliated schools and those without religious ties. Island Family magazine offers an online guide to private schools, available at http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/
Another excellent resource for private schools is the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS), Ala Moana Pacific Center, 1585 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1212, Honolulu 96814, 808-973-1540, www.hais.org. Their Web site lists the contact information for 36 member schools in Honolulu. Not all private schools are members, however. Here are some non-member schools in Honolulu:
One ‘Ohana Nui Way, 96818
Cathedral Catholic Academy
1728 Nu’uanu Ave., 96817
St. Patrick School
3320 Harding Ave., 96816
Holy Family Catholic Academy
830 Main St., 96818
Hoaloha Kai Montessori School
1339 Hunakai St., 96816
By law, families are permitted to homeschool their children. The State of Hawaii defines homeschooling as ‘a viable educational option where a parent instructs the parent’s own child.’
It is vital that families who choose to homeschool their children carefully review the requirements and regulations set forth by the Department of Education (http://doe.k12.hi.us/myschool/homeschool). Required forms can be downloaded at that Web site or requested at:
Student Support Branch
Hawai’i Department of Education
475 22nd Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816
Below are some (but not all) basic requirements for homeschooling children. Parents who plan to homeschool their children must:
- Submit a notice of intent to homeschool the child to the local public school’s principal. This is done either by a letter containing required information or by using a Form 4140.
- Provide annual progress reports and required test scores for grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 on each home-schooled child. After the 2009-10 school year, additional testing for grades 4, 6, and 7 will also be required.
- Create a structured curriculum to be available for inspection in the event of suspicion of educational neglect.
The Department of Education provides a list of homeschooling support groups and options for partnership with charter schools at http://doe.k12.hi.us/myschool/homeschool/homeschoollist.htm. These support groups include the Hawaii Homeschool Association (www.hawaiihomeschoolassociation.org), the Military Home Educators Network (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mhen-Oahu), and the Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii (www.christianhomeschoolersofhawaii.org). National homeschool organizations include American Homeschool Association, 800-236-3278, www.americanhomeschoolassociation.org, and the Home School Legal Defense Association, 540-338-5600, www.hslda.org
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