In a bucolic setting, Paia Elementary School sits far back from Baldwin Avenue among capacious sloping lawns and under spreading monkeypod trees. Reflecting Maui County's policy to construct public schools in masonry in its rural communities—all other counties in Hawaii used wood until the post–World War II period—the ten-acre campus includes two reinforced-concrete classroom buildings and several frame auxiliary buildings. The modest, Classical Revival, two-story classroom building was the original building constructed in 1926, and remains the focal point of the campus. Simple pilasters establish the rhythm of the facade and a centered, single-story portico with round-arched openings offers vitality. Central double-loaded corridors exit at each end. A single-story reinforced-concrete building, constructed in 1930 to house the primary grades, was sited at a right angle to the initial school building. It reflects the style of the main building and its corrugated-metal hipped roof perpetuates the proportion and slope of its neighbor. This four-room building was expanded to eight classrooms in 1936. Much of the original interior materials remain in both buildings. The original hipped-roof frame dining hall (1936), built on the knoll of the property, burned to the ground in 2005, and has been replaced by a new building (2011) of compatible design. A separate cottage for housekeeping training (1928), the first such facility on Maui, still remains on the campus.
Architect William D'Esmond designed Haleiwa Elementary School (1921; 66-505 Haleiwa Road) on Oahu prior to relocating to Maui. During the 1920s, he was the preeminent architect on Maui and his projects included the Church of the Holy Innocents (MA25), the restoration of the Lahaina courthouse (MA27), and numerous residences. He departed Maui during the Great Depression.