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Private school numbers down slightly

Updated: 
September 12, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — Enrollment in Big Island private schools was about on par in the 2016-17 academic year compared to the school year prior.

A report released last week by the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools shows there were 3,580 students enrolled in 14 Hawaii Island private schools in the 2016-17 year, down slightly from 3,634 students in 2015-16.

However, the report does not include Hawaii Montessori School’s Waimea campus, which closed in July. The school had operated out of that location for several decades, Executive Director Maya Wheaton said Monday.

Wheaton said Hawaii Montessori lost its lease to the building when the property owner decided to sell. The 60 students who attended the Waimea campus are not included in the latest enrollment report.

Hawaii Montessori is looking at other buildings around the island and hopes to re-open a second location by next school year, Wheaton said. She said the school currently features a wait list at its lone Hawaii Island location in Kailua-Kona.

Private schools are “making the radar of a lot more people now,” Wheaton said, adding Montessori schools also are becoming “more mainstream.”

The association compiles the enrollment report each year using student data provided by its 115 private/independent member schools from around the state.

Most Hawaii Island schools included also were at capacity last year.

Statewide, private school enrollment was up slightly over the year prior. Honolulu schools reported the biggest enrollment gains — a 2 percent overall increase in the 2016-17 school year over the year prior — for a total of 20,455 students.

Big Island private school students pay an average of $7,921 this current school year in tuition, data released last week also shows. Statewide, the average is about $9,000 per year.

Haili Christian School in Hilo is the least expensive Hawaii Island private school, averaging $3,995 per year to attend. Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea is the most expensive, averaging $22,258 per year for tuition.

Hawaii Island’s public schools also saw enrollment increase this year. Data released last week shows there are 23,091 public school students enrolled islandwide this year, up from 22,892 in the 2016-17 school year. The majority of the increase is in the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area. Waiakeawaena Elementary School, Waiakea Intermediate School, Hilo Intermediate School and Waiakea Elementary School were among schools which reported the largest enrollment gains within that complex area.

Wheaton said she believes enrollment increases islandwide could be partly a result of “more and more people moving into the area.”

“A lot of our inquiries are people from the mainland coming in and checking out our schools,” Wheaton said.

The full private school report can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/PrivateSchoolReport.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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