Old School Spirit
More than three decades after being abandoned to the elements, vandals and arson, Maui’s first public high school is kindling a passion for renewal.
(page 1 of 6)Photographs courtesy of Friends of Old Maui High School | Ron Dahlquist
When Maui High School was founded in 1913, the island was a rural community of some 32,000, mostly immigrants working in cane fields and sugar mills. Education was available only though grammar school, though boys could continue into their teen years at Lahainaluna, then a vocational-trade school. The upper classes hired tutors, or sent their children to Punahou on O‘ahu or to the Mainland for secondary education. But a growing Caucasian middle class wanted their children educated at home.
So Maui High was begun, the island’s first coeducational public high school and the third in Hawai‘i. Sited at an incredibly beautiful location two miles above Ho‘okipa Beach, the school overlooked the ocean and a coastline stretching to the cloud-crowned mountains of West Maui. Haleakala provided a backdrop for a verdant campus surrounded by fields of sugarcane, cooled by trade winds and kept green by windward showers. Generations of students would enjoy this quiet, spacious campus.
The school was located near the plantation camp of Hamakuapoko, then a thriving village not far from the population centers of Pa‘ia and Pu‘unene. At the end of the first year, the school had sixteen freshmen and sophomores, most from Maui’s prosperous Caucasian families.
That was soon to change, as immigrant families seeking a better future for their children took advantage of this opportunity for a free education. Some middle managers in the plantation community opposed the education of these “alien” children (most of whom were, in fact, American citizens by birth). If you gave such children an education, they would grow up wanting more than a job in the fields. And in a time when race and ethnicity were seen as legitimate dividing lines in society, some white parents preferred that their children not be exposed to other cultures and to those who communicated in pidgin English.