Maui News

New Kaupō center took ʻlots of alohaʻ to build; E. Maui project gains approvals

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Construction on the Kaupo School historic site is shown in 2020. The former school house was rebuilt and will now serve as a community resource center. PC: County Planning Department

Saying it took many years and “lots of aloha,” Kaupō community leaders highlighted the significance of their new community resource center on remote, historic East Maui grounds, which gained approvals Tuesday at Maui Planning Commission. 

“Through the commitment and dedication of our Kaupō community members, much has been achieved to complete the Kaupō Community Resource Center,” Makalapua Kanuha, Kaupō Community Association president, testified Tuesday. “It truly took years of conversations, hearts willing to understand and the spirit of this community to navigate this canoe to completion.”

During its regular meeting, the commission voted 8-0, with one absent and excused, to approve the Kaupō Community Resource Center’s state Land Use Commission special permit and a county use determination.

The community facility on 2.25 acres of state-owned ag land at 34346 Piʻilani Highway was designed by the association for community gatherings, special events and celebrations. It is also equipped to serve as an emergency shelter.

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Kauwila Hanchett, also a part of the association, said members envision the facility as a place for the community to gather. The membership nonprofit, which has about 50 to 70 members with direct ties to the Kaupō community, is still deciding whether the space will be open to visitors or non-Kaupō residents.

“Our goal is to grow as a nonprofit, establish programs and services for our community and eventually have staff and have somebody manning the center,” she said.

“What we’re going to be using the facility for is to celebrate our community, and to have it as a resource center where our kupuna can come and share and we can preserve and perpetuate the history and the culture of Kaupō,” Kanuha added. “This is a great opportunity I believe for our young ones to learn about what makes Kaupō very special and unique.”

Tara Apo, assocation vice president, said members will use the facility to meet and organize for the future while remaining connected to their past.

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“Lots of aloha has gone into this entire process,” she said.

Apo added that the new building has been reconstructed to bear the likeness of old Kaupō School. 

“Although we couldn’t save the structure, every effort was made to replicate the historical integrity of the structure including scraping down to the original paint colors and so when we pass it looks like the old school, although its now our new community resource center,” Hanchett said.

A single-story, two-room schoolhouse and two-bedroom teacher’s cottage were built in the early 1920s to serve the small, remote East Maui community. Originally the school held first through sixth grades with a single teacher who doubled as the principal, county documents said.

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In 1964, the school was officially closed when the student body dwindled to five students as more pupils traveled to Hāna for school. The school briefly reopened in 1982 but has not been regularly occupied or used since.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the state property was leased to the association in 2018, according to county documents. 

The community facility project, which began in September 2019, needed the state permit to allow for atypical uses within ag and rural districts. Their state permit will be valid for 50 years.

“This is a really good example I think of a community coming together to overcome obstacles and create something really awesome that will help the community flourish into the future,” said commissioner Kelly Thayer. “This is a beautiful example of just good community efforts and planning.”

Construction on the Kaupo School historic site is shown in 2020. PC: County Planning Department
Kehaulani Cerizo
Kehaulani Cerizo was born and raised on Maui and worked for nearly 15 years as a news reporter, copy editor and features editor at daily newspapers. She earned awards at The Maui News in Wailuku and at Today’s Local News in San Diego.
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