History of Wailuku Elementary School

Wailuku Elementary School

A BRIEF HISTORY OF WAILUKU ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
BY
D. SONNY GAMPONIA

“In 1904, a prominent Honolulu architect described the new building as the “Handsomest school building on the island or perhaps the country.” The stones, gathered from Iao valley and Wailuku Sugar Company lands, were of equal grade to the Kamehameha Chapel and even better quality than the stone used on Central Union Church on Oahu.
All that praise and attention was directed toward the new Wailuku Public School, built on what used to be a cow pasture just down the road from a deteriorating wooden school house.
The old school was operating on the premises of the old Wailuku Union Church on the corner of High Street and Kaohu Street. It was considered an eyesore and a health hazard. Editorials in the Maui News deplored the conditions of the building calling it “Immoral and unsanitary,” and advocated its removal. At the same time, editorials encouraged the construction of a brick building which would be a lasting monument and pride for the community.
On May 23, 1904 the building was dedicated with school children coming by train from as far as Haiku and Makawao to attend the ceremony. The Wailuku Brass Band played Hawaii Ponoi, and Charles King the Laureate musician of the territory performed. The superintendent of Public Instruction, A.T. Atkinson, spoke the history of the chief’s schools, the mission and private schools, and the evolution of public schools He spoke of how Hawaiians could not marry until they could read and write. He spoke of how adults went along to school with children because they too needed an education. And at one time there were 25 common schools, and 7 catholic schools in Wailuku alone. And of the 900 schools in the territory at the beginning of the century, the new Wailuku Public School was the crown jewel of them all.

The Senator H.P. Baldwin laid the cornerstone and buried a steel tube containing:

An 1866 copy of the Hawaiian gazette;
A 1904 copy of the Maui News;
Some American and Hawaiian coins;
Hawaiian stamps;
Reports from HC&S;
A 1903 government report;
And the constitution of the School Improvement Association.

September of 1904 marked the beginning of first classes in the new building. A year later, on November 5, 1905 students planted royal palms as an Arbor Day project. The trees lined the semi-circular driveway and a flower garden blossomed from the trees down to the avenue. As a community service, prisoners leveled the cow pastures behind the schools and planted grass for the playground. The school library, with pictures of the masters hung on the wall and its 600 volumes of books, was considered the best in the territory. PTA meetings were held as early as 1924. The first school newspaper, The Royal Palms, was first published in 1930. And in 1921, Lunches were only 2 1/2 cents.
In the 1920’s the school was over crowded with more than 900 students and only one building. The students in grades 4,5,and 6 attended classes in the town hall and the Japanese language school. In 1927 a new building was built but it was necessary to build the Wailuku Junior High in 1929. The upper grades moved to the new school, and for the first time all students from grades 1 through 6 attended school on the same campus.
Then in 1939, Baldwin high School was built. Wailuku junior High also became known as Iao School with grades 6-8. And the original Wailuku Public school was renamed Wailuku Elementary School. World War II was a major disruption and classes were relocated to church and community buildings. The U.S. Army moved into the school using it as headquarters and barracks.
After the war, the school age population of Maui grew, and most of the present concrete block classrooms were built in 1995. In1980, the newest addition was built at the top of the Campus near Koeli street.
Wailuku Elementary School continues to provide high quality education for nearly 1000 students from grades kindergarten to 5, including special education classes, a pre-school and a classroom for the deaf. The School, Bordering the south end of Wailuku’s historical District, remains true to the dreams of its founders- a long lasting monument and pride for the community.”
Since Mr. Gamponia’s history here is an update of Wailuku Elementary School as reflected in our School Status and Improvement Report 2007:
“Located in the seat of Maui County, Wailuku Elementary School, home of the proud Wildcats, celebrated its centennial year in 2004.
The school serves a diverse population of students from the communities of Wailuku Heights, Waikapu, Happy Valley, Puuohala, Kehalani, and Sand Hills. Approximately 41% of our students receive free-reduced lunches, qualifying Wailuku Elementary for Title 1 funds. Instruction in our regular education and support classes is geared to student needs driven by a Common Core curriculum.
Parent and community involvement occurs through our School Community Council, which is responsible for supporting school improvement, and student achievement. In addition, the Wailuku PTSA supports parents, teachers and students with monthly activities for families, and an annual “Fun Run” to foster school pride and to generate funds to support student achievement.
Our school’s focus is to improve student achievement through the Common Core Standards, provide comprehensive student support for all students and continuously improve the performance and quality of the education of your students. Wailuku Elementary is a school where “Children Come First.”

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