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Oʻahu's Central Middle School Renamed After Hawaiian Princess

Central middle school princess ruth keelikolani middle department of health
Department of Education
Central Middle School has been restored to its former name honoring Princess Ruth Keanolani Kanāhoahoa Keʻelikōlani.

Hawaiʻi's Board of Education has approved changing Central Middle School's name to honor the Hawaiian princess who once owned the downtown Honolulu property. The change is effective immediately.

At a meeting Thursday, the board approved naming the campus Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani Middle School.

School and community leaders have been trying since 2019 to rename the school.

The princess' home, Keōua Hale, once stood on the grounds of the current campus and when she died in 1883, her property was bequeathed to Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, according to documents supporting the name change.

"Ruth was the wealthiest person in the Kingdom when she passed away," said Holly Gates, the school library media specialist. "One of the stipulations of her will was to promote education."

"So Bernice went on to start Kamehameha Schools, Bishop Estates, and Bishop Museum — and a large part of that was through Princess Ruth’s money that she passed on. It was after Bernice had passed away, and Charles Bishop had sold the property to the Board of Education, and they were able to take the palace and turn it into a school," Gates said.

After Bernice Pauahi Bishop's death in 1885, the board of education purchased the property for what became Honolulu High School in 1895.

It later became Central Grammar School before it was changed briefly to Keʻelikolani School. It became Central Junior High School in 1928, then Central Intermediate School in 1932 and Central Middle School in 1997.

“In the 1930s, because people couldn’t pronounce the name, they changed it back to Central,” said the school’s principal Joseph Passantino. “So the significance is huge, especially for the staff who’s dedicated over two years to give her that duty and honor.”

Moving forward, the school said work will be scheduled to replace campus signage and update the uniforms. A future outdoor mural is also planned for the campus.

Video courtesy of the Hawaiʻi Department of Education

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Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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