Old School

  • John Steinhorst/The Garden Island

    Koloa Elementary School second graders from the Beginning Ukulele Club perform mele at the school’s 140th anniversary, from left: Lio Baliaris-Rivera, Kyran Luis, Shanyn-Isabella Nakaahiki and Titus Finch.

  • John Steinhorst/The Garden Island

    Grandmother Barbara Perez-Agan (far right) celebrates the holidays at Koloa Elementary with (from left) her daughter, Keanna Ramos, and her grandkids, students Auden Ramos, Ryder Ramos, Tyren Aona and Maika Aona.

  • John Steinhorst/The Garden Island

    Koloa Elementary School office assistant, Karin Bukoski, hugs her daughter, second-grade student Kierra Bukoski, during the school’s 140th anniversary celebration.

KOLOA — Kauai’s oldest school celebrated 140 years of educating youth and creating community leaders.

Koloa Elementary School opened its doors in 1877. On Thursday, several hundred people — including students, teachers and parents — gathered on the school lawn by the festive outdoor stage with holiday decorations. Parents and students smiled and sang while sitting on blankets, beach chairs and under shade tents.

“My kids went to school here, and my grand kids are going now,” said Barbara Perez-Agan, grandmother of four Koloa students from kindergarten to fifth grade. “It’s an awesome school. It’s a good community with good parents and good teachers. They’re really good communicating with the parents. They’re right there to help if the kids need extra attention.”

Some of its graduates have gone on to become policemen, singers, professional athletes and teachers. Three have even served as Kauai mayors. The oldest graduate in attendance was 104-year-old Gabriel Cataluna, who received hugs and kisses from several of the school’s newest students.

Students from each grade shared the area’s history, danced hula, played ukulele and sang Christmas songs at the sunny and breezy holiday event.

“We do it every year, I’ve been coming for a long time,” Perez-Agan said. “It’s really nice, and the kids are so cute.”

Former teachers, staff, and alumni came out to celebrate this momentous occasion.

“It’s like working with family here, the relationships are amazing,” said office assistant for the school, Karin Bukoski, whose daughter Kierra is a second-grade student. “My daughter loves it here. She loves the teachers, they’re just amazing.”

The historical institution was the first government public school on Kauai and is situated on the site of the state’s first commercial sugar plantation.

The Koloa Elementary School ohana still continues its original mission of cultivating respectful problem solvers and independent thinkers.

“It’s a small town; everybody knows everybody and is related to everybody,” Bukoski said. “The funnest part is seeing all the cute little kids.”

The school has 380 students enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade with a variety of clubs and after-school programs.

“Happy birthday to Koloa School, the oldest school on the island,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. “My daughter taught here for three years, so that’s even more special.”

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