The single-story, two-room schoolhouse and a two-bedroom teacher’s cottage were built around 1923 to serve the small East Maui community, according to Kaupo School’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
A road from Kipahulu to Kaupo was built and opened to traffic in 1937, and as many people began moving to bigger towns, population in the area declined in the 1950s and ’60s.
In 1964, Kaupo School had to close after enrollment fell to five students, who instead were sent to Hana School about 20 miles away. But after a series of landslides in 1982 blocked the road to Hana, Kaupo School reopened briefly.
Once the road was safe to drive again, the school sat vacant except for a few community uses, while the teacher’s cottage continued to be rented out. Eventually, both buildings fell into disrepair. Restoration projects over the years have included the addition of restrooms, as well as replacement of the floors and roof of the schoolhouse nearly 20 years ago.
As one of the few buildings in the area, the schoolhouse became a gathering place for weddings, funerals and baby luau, as well as for stranded travelers seeking shelter during storms, according to a state Department of Land and Natural Resources report.
2020 Update: After the unexpected demolition of the old Kaupo School prompted an outcry among the small East Maui community, officials and residents agreed Saturday to move the project to create a community center forward under a more transparent system.
A gathering of about 52 residents in Kaupo on Saturday voted unanimously to accept a new community engagement protocol that they hope will provide better accountability and cooperation as they work to repurpose the old schoolhouse.