Geographic exceptions

Under Hawaii laws, all persons attending public school are required to attend the school in the geographic area in which they reside. However, permission to attend another school may be granted by the Department.

​Geographic Exception FAQs​Common questions answered about the Geographic Exception process.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Permission to attend another school outside a student's geographic area may be granted by the Department with the welfare of the child as a major consideration. This process is governed by Board of Education Policy 500-12.

Under this policy, the Department is directed to establish procedures for the handling and approval of GE requests, including application process and timelines, criteria for selection, a public chance selection process if requests exceed a school’s established capacity, and an appeal procedure for denied requests. These procedures provide that:

  1. A student, once granted a geographic exception, shall belong to the school for which it is granted and shall enjoy all rights, privileges and responsibilities that are enjoyed by other students at the school until the student graduates or otherwise transfers.
  2. There shall be suitable consequences (including possible recision of the geographic exception) if the information upon which the exception was granted is found to have been false.
  3. The process established by the Department shall be equitable, widely publicized and “user friendly” to parents and children.
  4. There shall be timelines that permit reasonable projections of school enrollment so that new geographic exceptions shall not be the cause of a school exceeding the enrollment limits established by the Department.

The placement of a child with special needs shall conform to the law. More about GE can be learned under
Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 13.

Submitting an application

Fill out the GE Application form, and submit to the home school (for new students) or current school for students who are already enrolled. (The home school serves the geographic area of the child's residence.) GE applications for the next school year shall be submitted between January 1 and March 1 to facilitate a decision before the end of the school year. However, applications for the current and next school year shall be accepted at other time periods whenever unforeseen circumstances arise, i.e. student relocates. This ​flowchart​ helps explain the process. 

If the child attends our schools now (includes charters and Hawaiian Language Immersion Program schools), the parent/legal guardian should:

  • Submit to the student's current DOE school, whether application covers this or next year.

If the child doesn't attend our schools now (i.e., incoming kindergarteners, private school students, or out-of-state students), the parent/legal guardian should:

  • Application for next year: Submit to next year's DOE home school.
  • Application for this year: Submit to this year's DOE home school.

Notable considerations for a GE request

Any student who is found eligible for special education and related services may apply for a GE as long as the receiving school is capable of providing reasonable accommodations for that student. All other requests for GEs shall be considered only after the following notable considerations have been accommodated at the time of submission. Notable considerations are not ranked and each shall be given equal weight. They are:​

  • Authorized Physical Residence: In cases where the child's physical residence lies within the geographic service area boundary of the school (i.e. non-custody residence)
  • Child of School Staff Member: The school staff member may apply for a GE so that the child may attend the same location where the parent is employed.
  • Sibling of a Child Attending Same School: Parents may apply for additional children who become eligible to attend the same school as their currently GE-approved child. The currently GE-approved child must continue to be a student at the same school for the next school year.
  • Program of Study: Parents may wish for their child to attend a special program of study not offered at their home school. This type of approval needs to be determined by a receiving school administrator. Space availability is not automatic qualification for approval but should be weighed against the child's academic and social needs.

Appealing a principal's denial

A written appeal needs to be filed with the receiving school’s Complex Area Superintendent within 10 school days of the postmarked date of denial. The written appeal can be submitted using the attached Request for GE Review form. The receiving school complex area superintendent shall render a written decision within 10 school days of the postmarked date of the filing for an appeal.

Submitting to multiple schools

​For applications received by March 1, notification of the decision shall be mailed no later than two weeks after March 1, unless the student is to be considered in a chance lottery selection process. For more on this, please refer to Chapter 13.

Families in unstable housing

Please contact (808) 723-4192. Do not submit a GE form. Families in unstable housing only need a GE form if they want to attend a school other than the school they were attending when housing was lost (School of Origin) or the school in the area where they stay overnight most frequently (Home School). 

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