Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does Kula Kaiapuni mean?
A: Kula means school. The word Kaiapuni comes from the Hawaiian “kai” for ocean and “a puni” to be surrounded by or immersed. So the word Kaiapuni means being surrounded or immersed as a person in the sea.

Q: When did it all begin?
A: The program was started in 1987, in two schools: Waiau Elementary and Keaukaha Elementary.

Q: Do you have to be Hawaiian to go there?
A: No. It is a program within the public school system of Hawai’i.

Q: How are children selected to go there?
A: Parents select the program for their children rather than children being selected for the program. Parents choose to enroll their children in the Kaiapuni program because the program delivers the kind of education they want for his or her children.

Q: Do you have to start in kindergarten or can you come into the program later?
A: Most of our students enter at kindergarten. Those entering at later grades generally have had some exposure to the Hawaiian language at home (like younger siblings in the program) and have support for Hawaiian language acquisition at home (like a parent who speaks Hawaiian).

Q: I am a parent, do I need to speak Hawaiian to have my child go there?
A: We ask parents to take Hawaiian language classes so that they can support their children’s language learning at home.

Q: Do students speak English?
A: All but a few students speak English to some extent at home. The majority of our students have not attended Hawaiian immersion pre-school, and therefore do not speak Hawaiian prior to entrance into kindergarten. Our students continue to speak English outside of school throughout their lives.

Q: When do they learn English formally?
A: The Kaiapuni program is a full-immersion program up until grade five. That means all the skills and content are learned using the Hawaiian language. English language arts is offered after school for approximately one.

Q: How are they different from regular DOE schools?
A: The Kaiapuni schools are responsible for assuring all students achieve the “Hawai’i Content and Performance Standards” like all other public school students. The content and means of delivery, however, are based on Hawaiian traditional knowledge and a Hawaiian perspective.



“An immersion education is so much more than textbooks and computer supplies…it’s about growing Maui’s future stewards: individuals who possess a strong sense of place, and sense of self confidence that embodies Hawaiian language, thinking, and culture.”

-Kaiapuni parent

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