On the slopes of Wainaku hill overlooking Hilo stands Ha‘aheo Elementary School, a school that serves 175 students in grades kindergarten to sixth.
The school is located in an area that, in ancient times, was part of a rich fertile strip of land sloping up to Mauna Kea which was known as the Halepuna ahupua‘a, or Mokuhonua ahupua‘a.
Because of its rich fertile land contributed by the flow of the Waiala River that entered that area, Kamehameha the Great ordered the people living there to plant kalo so that his soldiers were well fed when traveling through the area.
After the people worked for many hours planting kalo, Kamehameha stood where the school stands now and surveyed the work of the people.
Marveled and full of pride of the work they have done, Kamehameha said:
“Ha‘aheo wau i ka ‘oukou hana, a i kapa ‘ia keia wahi ‘o Ha‘aheo (I am proud of your work! This place I name Ha‘aheo, pride)”
In the mid 1800s, the taro patches there turned into sugar plantations and a community of sugar plantation workers formed in the area of Wainaku.
In March 1888, Ha‘aheo Elementary School was established to serve the children of that plantation community.
Thirty students reported that day as the first teacher and administrator of the school, Ms. Severence, came in from town on horseback, ready to teach and serve her students.
Two years later, 67 students attended Ha‘aheo. From 1911-1925, there was a kindergarten to second-grade class and students continued the third grade at Hilo Union.
By 1925, there was a class for each grade level up to the sixth grade.
In 1993, Ha‘aheo became one of the first schools in the state that began year-round schooling.
Ha‘aheo currently holds the No Child Left Behind status “In Good Standing, Unconditional” and it was announced on March 1 that the school is at the top 5 perfect of schools in growth for math.
To celebrate the school’s 125th anniversary, students will be performing songs and dances which feature historical highlights and stories of Ha‘aheo at 8:30 a.m. today at the school located at 121 Ha‘aheo Road.