Hanalei School is the last of several schools that once served the Halalea District of Kauai. It is actually more than one hundred years old, dating back to 1835, when a missionary station and school were started at Waioli. By 1844 there were nineteen schools in the area from Kalalau to Kealia, many of these in Halalea.
In 1842, Edward Johnson started a Select School at Wailoi to prepare native instructors to teach in the common schools. Except for a few classes in the Select School, instruction was given in Hawaiian until 1862 when Louise Johnson began the first English School in the district.
In 1884 only two schools remained in Halaea: the English School at Hanalei and a common school at Wainiha. The Wainiha School was relocated to Haena in 1896. By that time schools were no longer taught in Hawaiian or differentiated as common or English, but were classified as public schools.
Haena School was destroyed by the March 9, 1957 tidal wave. Enrollment had diminished to only nineteen students. The parents decided it would be best to send their children to Hanalei to take advantage of a larger teaching staff and better facilities.
Further consolidation met strong community resistance. In 1974, citing small population, the Board of Education proposed a merger of Kilauea and Hanalei Schools at Princeville. The advantages of a larger central school were far outweighed by the expressed desire of both communities to keep their neighborhood elementary schools. While the two towns are cloase geopgraphically, they are distinctly different. Kilauea grew as a plantation town, Hanalei to Haena as farming communities.
The school enrollment has changed over the years. Prior to 1970, Hanalei School averaged approxiamately fifty to one hundred twenty pupils. In the years to follow enrollment has varied from 200 to 300.
The 2014 -2015 present school enrollment is 300.