Waiʻalae School

Wai’alae Elementary Public Charter School is a tuition free Preschool to Grade 5 elementary school located in the Kaimuki section of East Honolulu.

In 1995, the school became Hawai’i’s first Student-Centered School and then four years later, with the passage of Hawai’i’s “charter school law”, evolved into a Public Charter School.

Our Mission

Wai’alae Elementary Public Charter School is a student centered school that honors the whole child. It is committed to nurturing a joyful community of learners who strive for excellence and innovation; empowering all members of the community to actively engage in a democratic society.

Our Vision

The vision of Wai’alae School is to prepare our children for the 21st century as:

Creative problem solvers

Self-confident risk takers

Well-rounded individuals who are capable of multiple dimensions


Socially responsible to others and the world

CEO/Head of School Message

I am so pleased that you have decided to explore Wai’alae Public Charter School for your family. It is a wonderful place for children to fall in love with learning. 

As a parent, you recognize your child’s unique gifts. At Wai’alae, we are committed to letting those gifts flourish, whatever they may be. Here, you’ll find an inspiring atmosphere where children are challenged to grow on an academic, creative, and personal level. Our highly qualified educators help students develop the skills needed to reach their highest potential with confidence, all in an environment solely devoted to elementary education. 

Our students here are truly engaged in learning. Wai’alae is not a place where children sit passively and listen to their teachers. They are hands-on, all-in, joyful learners who are excited to dig deeply into subject matter and explore ideas. Our campus has plenty of space for children to celebrate childhood, in various ways. We also have a wonderful partnership with Kōkua Hawai’i Foundation where our students learn to be stewards of our land. Our innovative spaces, such as our STEM lab, provide opportunities for our students to practice and refine the cognitive skills and dispositions that will serve them well into their future. 

We believe that a child’s education should be both broad and deep, with a comprehensive exploration of science, math, literature, writing, social studies, music, the visual and performing arts, physical education, Hawai’iana, ‘Aina and technology. Students at our school become well rounded individuals who are prepared for an ever-changing world. Our focus on character development and cognitive skills give students a solid foundation for lifelong learning. 

This is a truly exceptional place for children and their families to embrace exploration and learning throughout preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school. Please email or call for more information or to schedule a campus visit. 

With Aloha,

Mary Wenstrom

CEO/Head of School


Wai’alae’s Commitment to Education

Quality Educational Experiences

Wai’alae is committed to providing educational experiences that help our students develop the habits of mind and the attitudes of effective, productive citizens who are able to think, to solve problems, to make decisions, and to work together. Each child is challenged through a curricula of theme-based unit studies.  Students and teachers create interactive learning environments where student input helps to determine particular areas of study, and students are involved in multidimensional assessments based on performance criteria. Wai’alae strives to provide each child with a firm foundation for learning by developing both the traits of curious, critical and reflective thinkers, and balanced with the more traditional rote memory and repetition of reading, writing, and numeric skills through:

  • Vision-based instruction to develop the thinking and attitudes of lifelong learners.
  • Standards-based curriculum based on science and social studies integrated thematic units.
  • Small class sizes for individualized attention from Kindergarten to Grade 5.

Meaningful and Productive Partnerships

An integral part of our program is our partnership with our families and community who support and enable us to provide innovative educational opportunities for our students. Building strong relationships with our students and families is essential for the success of our school and student learning. We foster academic excellence, as well as the development of important social and emotional skills.

At Wai’alae, our highly qualified teachers encourage a love of learning from the very start of our students’ academic journey. Our partnerships with community organizations provide meaningful learning opportunities which provide rich learning experiences that support learning.

Wai’alae also seeks to provide enrichment opportunities for students outside of the normal school day.  These after-school programs are run independently by private directors, but all classes are held on the Wai’alae School campus.   Program length, meeting frequency, and registration procedures vary.  Some programs may not be available for all grade levels.  Specific program and registration information is distributed to all families at the beginning of the school year and/or at the beginning of the second half of the school year.

Effective Self-Governance

Wai’alae is committed to providing leadership and direction for the school community to ensure that Wai’alae’s vision is a reality for all students.  The Wai’alae School Board is responsible and accountable for the setting of policy and school direction, for the promotion and maintenance of communication among members of the school community, and for the effective management of resources.

  • Our School Governing Board is inclusive of students, teachers, staff, administration, parents, and the community.

Public Accountability

Wai’alae’s accountability framework and process requires the members of the school community to examine and evaluate the effectiveness of our organizational program.

  • Smarter Balance Assessment
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation
  • Hawai’i State Charter Commission Contract Approval
  • Comprehensive Student Support System (CSSS):
    • The goal of the Comprehensive Student Support System (CSSS) is to help children achieve in school. CSSS accomplishes this mission offering comprehensive, coordinated, integrated, and customized supports that are accessible, timely and strength-based for our special needs population.  Our broad inventory of services is designed to develop competent students consistent with Wai’alae Public Charter School’s Vision and Mission.

Our History

Wai’alae School first opened its doors in 1928.  For many years, the school enjoyed a reputation of excellence. Its students consistently performed well on standardized tests and by all traditional measures demonstrated high achievement and progress in learning.  However, in 1990, the school community realized that to truly prepare students for the 21st century, traditional teaching practices would not suffice. Wai’alae could not focus solely on content and skills, but recognized that habits of mind were equally important in the development of responsible, productive citizens of the future.  From these beliefs came the Wai’alae Vision and with that as a focus, members of all role groups — teachers, parents, students, administrators, support staff, and community members — embarked on a journey of reform and renewal.


Wai’alae Elementary School opens at its present location at 19th and Harding Avenues in Kaimuki.


Wai’alae becomes the first school to adopt School/Community Based Management (SCBM).


Wai’alae begins a five-year restructuring project that focuses on developing a social students/science curriculum framework; designing a multi-dimensional student assessment system; promoting parent participation in schoolwide improvement efforts; and enhancing professional development for teachers.


The Hawai’i State Legislature passes the Educational Omnibus Bill creating “Student-Centered Schools” (SCS).  Student-Centered Schools would be allowed to implement alternative administrative and educational policies and goals without being bound by Department of Education policies and State laws (except for those governing collective bargaining, procurement, equal rights, and health and safety). Funding would be provided based on a per pupil allocation for instructional and classroom expenses. Budgetary and fiscal decisions would be made by the school’s own governing board.


Wai’alae School signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hawai’i State Department of Education to become Hawai’i’s first Student-Centered School.


Wai’alae School undergoes a self-study using the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Focus on Learning process.


Wai’alae School receives a six-year term of accreditation from WASC.


Legislation creating “New Century Public Charter Schools” is passed and signed into law.  Wai’alae School becomes Wai’alae New Century Public Charter School.


A groundbreaking agreement between the Hawai’i State Teachers Association and the Wai’alae School Board is signed making Wai’alae School the first public school in Hawai’i to have its own contract with its teachers.


Wai’alae School begins a self-study for renewal of WASC accreditation.


Wai’alae School receives a six-year term of accreditation from WASC.


Wai’alae School begins a self-study for renewal of WASC accreditation and has continued to be WASC accredited to this day.


Wai’alae School receives a five-year charter renewal from the Hawai'i State Charter School Commission