We have great news!
The campaign to fund the Washington School National Register of Historic Places Nomination was a huge success! We are proud to announce that after two months of fundraising and meeting and spreading the word, we have met our goal of $7,600!
Thank you to our donors who contributed funds towards this project. And a huge thank-you to the media and the neighbors throughout Ventura County who helped spread the word. The nomination was submitted on December 7th. The Conservancy will present the Nomination at the State Historic Resources Commission meeting in April, 2024. Watch the Conservancy webpage for progress updates!
With the community's help, we will continue to increase public awareness of irreplaceable historic resources, like Washington School. We aim to prevent needless demolition, to champion adaptive reuse and to promote the preservation of historic resources in Ventura and surrounding areas. Watch this page for updates on our progress and will invite you to continue supporting our important work.
Thank you so much for the role you played in nominating Washington School to the National Register of Historic Places. Well Done!
San Buenaventura Conservancy for Preservation
Donations for the Conservancy help support our preservation mission can still be made to our preservation general fund here:
We are 100% volunteer non-profit organization.
The National Register of Historic Places nomination has been reviewed by staff at the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) in Sacramento. OHP staff have sent their first Request for Information (RFI) back to the Conservancy to clarify points in the nomination and we have responded with all the changes and needed information. We do not have confirmation of a date on the calendar of the State Historical Resources Commission (SHRC) yet.
The goal of $7600.00 for National Register Nomination of the Washington School was reached on December 6th. Thank you to all those that made a gift to the fund. Watch this space for updates as the nomination is forwarded to the State Office of Historic Preservation.
A successful update meeting was held November 16th. Stephen Schafer shared details from the nomination research and answered questions about the timing of the nomination, and possibilities for redevelopment of the site for teacher housing or other options. At Cooper Hall next to Grace Church.
Washington Elementary School which opened on Monday, August 31, 1925, is a significant historic property in the Midtown area of Ventura, California. It meets Criteria A and C of the National Register of Historic Places at the local level of significance. Washington Elementary School is eligible under Criterion A because of its association with Education in Ventura and the impact of the Field Act on school design in the 1930s. The Washington Elementary School building is also eligible under Criterion C as a good and rare example of an educational building redesigned is response to earthquake safety concerns in the city of Ventura. Additionally, it is a good example of the work of locally prominent master architect, Harold E. Burket who specialized in schools and other institutional buildings throughout Southern California.
Conservancy Board Chair, Stephen Schafer, provided an update on getting Washington School in Midtown on the National Register of Historic Places at the September 14 Midtown Ventura Community Council Meeting.
City Council: 9.11.23 - YouTube go to 1:05:06 on the YouTube link. Stephen Schafer, Conservancy Board Chair, provided an update on the work of the Conservancy during public comment time at the September 2023 Ventura City Council Meeting.
The meeting was successful and well attended (full house SRO), we have a list of names of people who want to help with preservation and have a say in the future of the Washington School buildings. Please subscribe below so we can contact you about future meetings to address the School District and list Washington School on the National Register of Historic Places.
Grace Church Cooper Hall - 65 McMillan Ave. Wednesday, July 26th @ 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
by: Isaiah Murtaugh, Ventura County Star
The San Buenaventura Conservancy is moving forward with a bid to add Ventura's former Washington School to the National Register of Historic Places after consultants determined the century-old site has the requisite pedigree for eligibility.
The historic preservation nonprofit hosted a community meeting to discuss adding 96 MacMillan Ave., most recently home to Ventura County Christian School, to the register in July. Conservancy chair Stephen Schafer said this week that the group is ramping up fundraising efforts while it pieces together a formal application.
Schafer said the school, which saw its cornerstone laid in 1925, qualifies for the register based, in part, on its connection to local architect Harold Burket, who overhauled the school's design during an earthquake retrofit in the 1930s.
Burket is also responsible for Ventura's Community Presbyterian Church, E. P. Foster Library and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, along with a number of other residential and industrial buildings.
The school, Schafer said, also qualifies because of it represents the midtown Ventura boom of the 1920s and 30s.
If approved, the designation would qualify the cluster of buildings along MacMillan Avenue for some preservation grants. The property would also automatically be listed on California's Register of Historical Resources, giving it limited protection against demolition and major remodeling. Schafer said the designation wouldn't protect the grass fields behind the buildings that make up the majority of the school campus. "The turf is not necessarily historic," he said.
Ventura County Christian began attempts to add the campus to the register in the spring during an eviction battle with Ventura Unified School District, the property's owner. The district first told the school it had to leave in August 2022 after the district said a review found the site was seismically unsafe for students.
From the archive: Ventura conservancy weighs historic preservation bid of former Christian school
Ventura County Christian dropped its preservation bid and left the campus in May as part of a settlement agreement with Ventura Unified. Schafer said that the conservancy has built directly on the groundwork laid by the school — even hiring ASM Affiliates, the same preservation consultants — but that there are no other connections between the two bids.
Ventura Unified has yet to publicly throw its weight behind the bid or to oppose it. Marieanne Quiroz, a district spokesperson, said in a statement Tuesday morning that district trustees have requested a special meeting to publicly discuss the conservancy's efforts, but that the meeting hasn't yet been scheduled.
The currently vacant campus is one of five surplus properties Ventura Unified is trying to find a use for. The district has done early research into the possibility of building employee housing on district property, but board president Sabrena Rodriguez said in an interview last week that trustees haven't started conversations about where a housing development might go.
Trustees voted in August to ask the state to waive the normal bidding process for all five surplus properties, which would give the district more control over any future sale. Quiroz said the district isn't expecting a response from the state before January. The conservancy's bid for the register must be first reviewed by state authorities. That process will take at least a few more months.
After the nonprofit files the requisite paperwork, which Schafer said could take two months, the state allows 60 days for local government agencies to comment before the bid is submitted to the California State Historical Resources Commission. Schafer said he expects that to happen sometime between February and May. If approved, the state will submit a nomination to the Keeper of the National Register in Washington, D. C., who will make a final determination after roughly 45 days more.
Historical resources can be listed without the express consent of their owners, according to the California Office of Historic Preservation's website, though private landowners can stop their property being listed with a formal objection. Public landowners, like Ventura Unified, can't stop their property being listed.
The conservancy has spent roughly $2,000 so far, Schafer said, part of a total $7,000 it expects to pay in consultancy and filing fees to take the bid over the line. So far, the all-volunteer nonprofit has raised just under $2,500 for the Washington School effort.
Schafer said the conservancy is planning a future community meeting for some time in early November. He said, though, that the conservancy's role isn't to make recommendations for how to use the vacant land, but to provide "clarity" on its past. "We want to protect the buildings," he said, "to make sure nobody comes in later and says, 'Well, we didn't know.'"
by: Isaiah Murtaugh, Ventura County Star
Ventura conservancy weighs historic preservation bid of former Christian school
Ventura County Christian School operated out of a former Ventura Unified School District property from 2001 until the end of the school year.Three months after leaders of Ventura County Christian School halted their attempt to add Ventura's former Washington School to the National Register of Historic Places, the San Buenaventura Conservancy is considering picking up the baton.
The conservancy, a historic preservation nonprofit, hosted a community meeting Wednesday night to discuss the fate of the century-old school buildings at 96 MacMillan Ave. Ventura County Christian, the site's most recent tenant, launched a preservation bid in March amid attempts to stave off eviction by Ventura Unified School District, the property's owners.
But in May, the Christian school signed a settlement agreeing to leave the property and abandon its preservation attempt in exchange for the district waiving 10 months of back rent. The school and district never reached an agreement on the eviction suit's central issue: whether or not the building was earthquake-safe.
Wednesday's meeting marks a potential renewal of preservation efforts, this time led by the conservancy. Stephen Schafer, the conservancy's board president, said the nonprofit's work could build on the school's early groundwork but has no other connection. Schafer said the conservancy is pursuing a national designation because the local historic site process requires the property's owner to be on board.
Marieanne Quiroz, a district spokesperson, said via text Friday that the district still has "no current plans for the site," which remains on the district's list of surplus properties.
Schafer said the nonprofit's decision to reopen conversations about historic preservation is "due diligence."
"It's empty. We don't know what's gonna happen," Schafer said in a phone interview Thursday. "The neighborhood is anxious about it."
In March, the school distributed flyers for its now-defunct preservation effort in the surrounding residential neighborhood that said the school was "certain the entire property will be developed into high-density housing."
School administrator Perry Geue downplayed the flyer in an April interview, saying it was "probably a bit overstated," and Ventura Unified leaders rejected the claim, saying the district had yet to make plans for the property.
But Schafer said some community members he spoke with still harbored concerns about a large development landing on the vacant land. Others, he said, were worried that the empty building would fall back into the disrepair it was in before the Christian school moved in. "It's not hard to look back at 1995 and go 'uh-oh,'" he said.
Quiroz said the district is increasing security patrols and landscaping rotations at the property in addition to boarding the property's windows from both inside and out. If community members see "anything unusual," she said, "please give us a call."
More than 70 community members attended Wednesday's evening meeting, Schafer said, enough to signal to the conservancy that there is community interest in preservation "We've got a mandate from the neighborhood that says we want to be part of this," he said.
Sabrena Rodriguez, president of Ventura Unified's board of trustees, joined the meeting along with Trustee Calvin Peterson. Rodriguez reiterated that the district has not established plans for the site and said the board hasn't yet had a conversation about historic preservation.
"We attended just to listen," she said. "It was a great opportunity to hear directly from the community."
Some meeting attendees, Schafer said, were Ventura County Christian School parents, part of a group that launched an online fundraising campaign on July 20 to have the school designated a historic site.
The campaign’s web page says the group is composed of parents and volunteers — not school staff — and that organizers hope "to preserve this land monument and help keep it running as a school." Ellen Henderson, the person listed as the fundraiser's organizer, did not respond to an emailed interview request.
Schafer said the Christian school had already found a new location for the fall and that the conservancy's efforts are "not about the school," only preservation.
Geue, the school administrator, did not respond to multiple phone calls and text messages.
If the conservancy is successful in obtaining a historic site designation for the buildings — a process Schafer said could take at least until early 2024 and isn't guaranteed — the tag would protect the older structures but not prevent the district or a future owner from building on the property.
"All we are trying to do is preserve the building," Schafer said. More than half of the site consists of fields and ball courts that Schafer said would remain unprotected. "This is not anti-growth. It's about preservation."
The nonprofit's board will meet on Aug. 9 to officially vote on whether to throw its weight behind a preservation effort. If approved, Schafer said the conservancy is likely to reach out to ASM Associates, the firm who did preliminary work for the Christian school, to take the bid down the road.
"The school is pretty awesome," Schafer said. "There's so much potential for what could fit in there."
by Alex Wilson, Ventura County Reporter
It was nearly 100 years ago that Washington Elementary School was built at 96 MacMillan Avenue in Midtown Ventura, which at the time would have been near the eastern edge of the expanding city. By the 1980s the Ventura Unified School District had shuttered the campus, partly due to safety concerns about the aging buildings, and neighbors started complaining about graffiti, vandalism and unsheltered people who moved in. Things looked brighter for the campus after it was leased and renovated by Ventura County Christian School in 1999, but that school recently moved after VUSD officials concluded Washington School fails to meet current earthquake standards.
Now leaders of a Ventura nonprofit focused on preserving historic architecture are contemplating ways the school might be reused as offices, another school or possibly housing for teachers, and whether or not it may qualify for the National Register of Historic Places. San Buenaventura Conservancy for Preservation President Stephen Schafer told the Ventura County Reporter there are fears the building will be vulnerable to vandalism once again now that it’s vacant.
“So we’re back at the point where we have a school that’s a vibrant building that still has all of its bits and pieces attached to it and it hasn’t been boarded up yet, it actually hasn’t been vandalized yet. And the community is concerned about a vacant building that could attract issues and what can we do about it,” he said.
Schafer will lead an informational meeting on July 26 to discuss historic preservation options and potential adaptive reuse.
“We are trying to, first of all, meet with the neighbors and do questions and answers about the school. What do we know about the school? What do we hope to find out about the school? And one of the main things we hope to find out is, is the school eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,” Schafer explained. “If the community isn’t interested, then it’s up to the conservancy to decide whether we’re interested.”
Schafer said many people who live near Washington School are fearful it might be sold and torn down, and efforts to preserve it could be enhanced if it’s deemed to have historical significance.“I think there’s a lot of misinformation and a lot of worry. There might be some fear of giant buildings, which I don’t believe is warranted, but, you can’t say exactly because if it is on the surplus properties list and it gets sold outright and there are no protections applied to the buildings, then who knows what can happen,” he said. VUSD spokesperson Marieanne Quiroz told the VCReporter in an email that no final decision has been made by the district’s Board of Trustees about what will happen to Washington School, which was deemed to be surplus property in 1993. According to Quiroz, district officials were not notified about the meeting planned by the San Buenaventura Conservancy.
The informational meeting about Washington School will be held at Grace Church across the street from the school, starting at 6 p.m. on July 26.
“We’re not 100% sure what to expect from this meeting,” Schafer said. “We want to see if there are people in the community that are interested in joining with us to preserve the school, and if there are, sending that message to theschool district.”
At the first Midtown Meeting, the Goleta Community Center was mentioned as a good example of adaptive reuse. See page 163/224 of the report
the Statement of Significance for the National Register.
The building received FEMA money for seismic work. The work is underway this year.
Goleta links and presentations
The 1860s marked the close of the rancho period when classes were held at the Ventura Mission. In 1865-66 there were 372 white children and 11 identified Indian children of white guardianship living within the boundaries of the San Buenaventura School District. Of that number, four attended private school and 309 did not attend school at all. School was held then in an old one-room adobe home on West Main Street near Ventura Avenue, known as Schoolhouse Number 1. The property was sold in 1873 for $110.
In 1866 the first schoolhouse was built near Harrison and Ventura Avenue, known as Canyon School, Schoolhouse Number 2, and School-in-the-Canyon. It could accommodate 40. It was boarded up and sold in 1873 for $465 when San Buenaventura School District was formed and Hill School built.
In 1872 a site near Poli and Cedar Streets was selected for a new school. It was purchased for $5 per front foot and was 400 feet deep. The cornerstone was laid in September of that year and the school was variously known as Hill School, Brick School, Ventura Public School, and Poli Street School. There were 200 students and the teachers received $65 to $125 per month. Located on top of a hill away from settled streets, the road leading to it was often muddy and difficult. The following year Ventura County was formed from Santa Barbara County. Hill School was sold in 1923 and razed in 1926.
A building on Oak Street in 1876 was rented to accommodate the out-grown Hill Street school. Known as the Meta Street School, this temporary unit served approximately 40 students and one teacher during the ’70s and ’80s. By 1886 another temporary location for primary students was established on California Street.
Bonds were then passed for a new school at the corner of Fir and Santa Clara Streets, across from Plaza Park, containing six classrooms, each large enough to accommodate 50 to 60 pupils, and one recitation room. It was two-and-a-half stories high with three towers. The Plaza School commenced operation in 1888 and remained there until it was sold for $41,900 and demolished in 1932 to make room for the Post Office, which was built in 1936. The two palm trees planted in front of Plaza school around 1900 still stand in front of today’s Post Office. Pupils of the seventh grade and above attended Plaza School, with the lower grades divided between there and Hill School. By the spring of 1889, 79% of Ventura’s children were enrolled in school, an increase of 10% over the previous year. In 1901 President William McKinley and in 1903 Theodore Roosevelt spoke on its steps. By 1919 the school was modified to provide more classrooms.
For some time people had been interested in education above the eighth grade and some private classes had been held to meet the need. In 1889 a tax of $1,200 was passed to pay the salary of a high school teacher. The class was first held in one of the upstairs rooms of Plaza School and the first graduation took place in 1890, with Bertie Lloyd the first graduate.
The following year, 1891, Union High School District was formed for ninth grade and above students with the Avenue and Mound districts joining. In 1895 land was purchased and the following year Mill, Rincon, and Montalvo School Districts were admitted. In 1897 the high school classes left Plaza School for the new, although far from completed, Ventura High School, on the land now occupied by Lincoln Elementary School, bounded by Santa Clara, Ann, Main, and Hemlock Streets. In 1900 the Saticoy, Del Norte, and Arnaz Districts were admitted and Center the following year. The three main course fields at Union High School introduced in 1900 were Classical, modern language, and commercial. A large athletic field was created in 1902. That year seventeen girls and one boy graduated. With improvements, its value was estimated to be a little over $30,000. Manual Training was introduced in 1907. Cooking, Sewing, and Botany were added in 1909. From 1912, when a new high school was built, to 1930 it became Ann Street Grammar School.
A public kindergarten was established in 1906 when two teachers were hired. Two rooms of the Y. M. C. A. were rented for this use. Since families living on the west side of Ventura did not take advantage of this, the kindergarten classes were moved in 1909 to the centrally located Palace Hotel. This was not entirely satisfactory and a bungalow-type building was built on Palm Street in 1912. (1946 photo) This site was sold in 1963 for Senior Citizens housing. In 1912 it was reported that the yearly cost per kindergarten child in Ventura was $37.35 and $42.26 per elementary child.
In 1922 a kindergarten unit was built on Santa Clara Street between Crimea and Hemlock. It was sold to the Girl Scouts in 1945.
With insufficient room and poor facilities in the Union High School, it was moved to the 14.61 acres on the Eastern city limits where Cabrillo Middle School is today, which had been secured by election in 1910 for $10,614. The cornerstone of the Administration building was laid in September, 1911, the building accommodating the entire school. It stood where the 50s-60s and 70s buildings are today. Of all the school sites, this and the Lincoln School site, both located in mid-Ventura, have the most history. In 1912 Union High had 150 students and ten teachers. Before 1921 students had to enter from the Meta Street side via a wooden trestle over the San Jon barranca. The school also served as the Junior College when it was created in 1925 until 1930, when a new high school was built. In 1921 a gym was built and in 1924-25 the campus was remodeled, with cafeteria and shop buildings added. At that time it housed 340 students in grades 9-14. Several adjoining strips of land were acquired in 1926. That year about 40 enrolled in the junior college, but at the close of the year that number had dwindled to a paltry few. After that, new life was fueled with music, drama, journalism, and clubs. In 1927 a new administration building was built.
With the 6-4-4 plan beginning in the 1929-1930 school year, the first Ventura Junior High School as a separate unit and the opening of a new VHS-JC campus occurred about January, 1930. That year a new girls’ gym was built at the junior high in the northeast corner, now the oldest building remaining on the campus. Starting in 1935, double sessions were required for two years because it was overcrowded with 1,380 students. The 7th and 8th graders went from 8:00-12:00 and 9th and 10th graders from 12:00-4:10. In 1935 the original building was demolished to make room for the present two-story 50s/60s building, opened in the Spring of 1937, and that Fall a commercial building, half of the present 70s building, was added. Again becoming over-crowded in 1951, three new bungalows were added. The next spring construction of a new cafetorium began and the last 10th grade class graduated. A three-year Cabrillo Junior High School was established with grades 7-9 in September, 1952. That Christmas Eve a coffee percolator inadvertently left on in the counseling office by the custodian caused a disastrous fire.
Sixteen classrooms, counseling and administrative offices, art room, and library in the first floor of the west wing of the Administration Building were destroyed. Vacation was extended for a week while the office and library moved to the bus barn and seven Quonset huts from the Port Hueneme naval base were converted to fourteen temporary classrooms. When it rained, they leaked; when it was hot the students went outside. In 1953 the new gym was built and the old boys’ gym demolished. The girls’ gym was converted to music and shop use. The present 20s and 30s wings were opened in 1954 as science and art rooms. 750 students moved from there to the new Anacapa Junior High in March, 1954, our second junior high. A new woodshop building at Cabrillo was built in 1956 and new office, library, and 40s wing in 1957. The students and faculty were again split in February, 1958, when DeAnza Junior High was opened. The Quonset huts were then removed. Ventura’s fourth junior high was established in September, 1962, when students transferred to the new 22-acre site of Balboa Junior High. Girls could wear pants for the first time in 1970, when the strict dress code was discarded. In the fall of 1982 the junior highs all became Middle Schools when the system became 5-3-4.
Returning to the elementary schools, in 1912 the elementary board purchased the old high school building for $10,000, rehabilitated it, and renamed it as the Ann Street School. More classrooms were added to it and Plaza School in 1919. In 1921 the name of the Ann Street School was changed to its current name, Lincoln School. The building was finally condemned in 1929. A new building commenced operation in September, 1931, and Plaza School was vacated. The site included an amphitheater to accommodate 350 persons. Built in conjunction with it was the office of the Superintendent and Board of Education, located at the corner of Main and Ann Streets. In 1950 Lincoln School, pictured here, was considered structurally unsafe and, after a 1953-54 earthquake, it was demolished. The present Lincoln School was occupied in 1955. It closed during a period of decreased enrollment in 1973, and the students transferred to Washington School. Lincoln Elementary was then converted to Mar Vista Continuation High School until Lincoln was again needed for elementary students. At that time Mar Vista students were transferred to the El Camino School site.
In 1923 May Henning School, named after a pioneer Ventura educator, was built (1929 photo) on Santa Clara Street on the city land purchased the previous year, formerly occupied by the jail and first county courthouse. It closed December, 1959, and the secondary district offices and warehouses were built there in 1962. The elementary district office was located on Arcade Drive at that time.
A bond issue for construction of Washington School on MacMillan Street was approved without a single negative vote and its cornerstone was laid in 1925, serving what is midtown Ventura. A new auditorium was built with WPA assistance in 1940, but the school was closed due to earthquake safety concerns in 1983. The students were transferred to Lincoln School. Years later the property was leased for use by Ventura Christian High School for K-12, which continues to date.
In 1927 a contract was awarded for a three-room school west of the Avenue, to be known as Sheridan Way, after a prominent pioneer family. (1949 photo) The present buildings were constructed in 1954.
Late in 1928 a new school site was purchased for $3,500 per acre at the corner of Howard and Thompson Streets, the present Will Rogers site to accommodate overflow from Washington School. However, it wasn’t until 1938 that the new three-room school was opened, known as the Thompson Boulevard School. Its name was changed to its current name two years later. Today’s main unit was completed in 1950.
It is little known that from 1934-1937 there was a class on San Nicholas Island. It was finally terminated due to the cost for two students and it was deemed that Ventura was not responsible for their education.
Ventura’s population was exploding. By 1930 it was 11,432, a growth of 187.3% in 10 years. Because of this, the beginning of a separate high school/junior college campus was needed. It occurred when a $400,000 school bond was passed in 1928 to buy a 14.27-acre site at 2155 E. Main Street. The college had been created as the Ventura Junior College Department of Ventura High School on what is now the Cabrillo Middle School campus, as previously mentioned. The new campus provided a four-year education (grades 11-14) from 1929 to 1952. The 1929-1930 school year saw 54 students enrolled. The first graduation of grade 14 students occurred in 1931 with 18 graduates. A 17-acre farm and several residential lots were bought in 1934 to expand the Main Street campus. The college's name was changed to Ventura Junior College in 1936. Expansion of the campus was undertaken after a 1938 bond issue for $250,000 was approved and a PWA grant of $285,750 was applied for...resulting in six new classroom buildings, auditorium, library, gymnasium, and stadium. World War II particularly affected the high school district. Activities and sports were curtailed, staff and yearbook was cut, and the junior college enrollment dramatically declined. After the war athletics, clubs, theater, music, and social activities were all revived. The picture is of the campus around 1950. The beloved two-story brick building was demolished in 1958 because it “did not meet earthquake safety standards”. It was so sturdy the wrecking crew went bust trying to knock it down! Five one-story buildings quickly replaced it. A new two-story classroom building on the spot of the original brick building was added in 2005.
The ’50s was a time of many changes. Ventura’s population in 1950 stood at 16,534. Voters approved in 1951 a bond issue by 89%, with 3 junior highs, senior high, and junior college campus as the ultimate goal. A 3-3-2 plan for the secondary district began in 1952, with grades 13 and 14 sharing the high school campus with the 10th-12th graders until a new junior college was completed. Six temporary buildings were assigned to the college near the tennis courts. Construction of the Telegraph Road college campus started in 1952, and the college was renamed Ventura College (Anacapa College and San Buenaventura College were rejected). The college moved during the spring recess of 1955 and classes began the day after Easter.
With Ventura’s population moving eastward, a site at the corner of Loma Vista Road and Lynn Drive was purchased. The land was leased to harvest the walnut crop from its approximately 340 trees. The crop was sold in 1952, with the lessee keeping the first $1,500 and the district taking 70% of the balance. Loma Vista Elementary School opened its doors there in 1953.
Three classrooms of Pierpont Elementary school near the beach were completed by the opening of school in 1954 or 1955. The present plant was completed in 1959.
More new east-end schools were needed. Blanche Reynolds School, on Valmore Street, first had portable units in 1955 and a year later the permanent buildings were added.
Portable units used at Blanche Reynolds were moved to El Camino School on College Drive in 1956 for a year, before permanent buildings were constructed, using the same plans as Blanche Reynolds. When enrollment declined in 1981 the school was closed and in 1983 was relocated there after leaving the Lincoln school site, sharing the El Camino site with Adult Ed. offices. Eventually it housed. When Adult Education moved to the current location on Valentine Road, an independent study school, was also started there. El Camino High students moved to the Ventura College campus on Day Road in 2009 and the site became a Community Day School for 6th-8th grades.
In 1957 Poinsettia Elementary opened on North Victoria Avenue, with portable units used for a year. Four years later, in 1961 Elmhurst Elementary opened, with the same plans that Poinsettia had utilized. Ventura’s second high school, Buena High School, was built in 1960 to ease the seriously overpopulated Ventura High. Buena shared Ventura’s stadium until it finally received its own in June, 2004.
In the 1960s the California Legislature was determined to reduce the number of school districts appreciably and offered rewards to do so. Thus, the present Ventura Unified School District, serving grades kindergarten-grade 12, was created March 16, 1965, effective July 1, 1966. At that time the voters approved a new educational unit to include all of the area of the Mound, Avenue, Mill Union, and a portion of the Nordhoff Union School District, and the Ventura Elementary and Secondary School Districts. Punta Gorda, Montalvo, and Saticoy Districts had previously merged. The curriculum of the new district would be changed, although not for the first few years. Some favorite programs, such as outdoor science education favored by the Mound District, had to be dropped. Others were instituted, such as adult education, which could lead to the granting of high school diplomas. Classes for special education students doubled from 29 to 58. Release time for the religious education program was eliminated. Elementary instrumental music was continued for a time. Summer school was scheduled. With the burgeoning population, more portable classrooms had to be purchased in order to meet the needs of elementary and junior high schools.
The new district’s business and personnel services were housed in the former high school district office at 295 South Arcade and the superintendent and educational services’ offices in the elementary school offices at 120 East Santa Clara.
Of the formerly independent districts now merged into Ventura Unified School District, Punta Gorda District along the Rincon became independent from the Ventura District the summer of 1888. At that time a one-room schoolhouse in La Conchita formed the Punta Gorda school. It was annexed in 1946 when their district was terminated. The school was moved in the mid 1950s to Santa Clara Street in Ventura. Prior to demolition of the building, part was salvaged and moved to its present location in La Conchita at 6746 Ojai Street. [Wikipedia]
Facing problems, the Montalvo District requested annexation and in 1954 the district joined Ventura. It had been established as an independent unit in 1889 when they built the Montalvo school with a $6,000 bond. In 1911 a contractor removing old paint from the building with torches started a fire which completely destroyed it. A new Montalvo School was dedicated in 1912 and the present one in 1937.
Facing problems similar to those in Montalvo, the Saticoy School District joined Ventura in 1962. The district had been started when Ventura County was still part of Santa Barbara County. In 1876 a contract was issued to build a new school in Saticoy on the present school site for $1,450 for students in that area. It was destroyed by fire in 1925. A new building was opened a short time later, later condemned for earthquake safety. The major portion of the present building was constructed by a WPA project in 1939-40. 1882 photo
The Mound District, with grades 1-8, left the Ventura District in 1875 and at one time was part of the Montalvo School District. The school was located where Telephone Road and Highway 101 presently intersect. It was a one room school and, when classes were moved, stood as a residence. From there, Mound School was moved to the corner of Day Road and Telegraph Road. The first phase of the building was in 1921. The building was later used by the YMCA. It is now part of a shopping center called the Mound School Plaza. The bell from there is at the present Mound School. Because of oil income, a bond issue was not necessary when in 1951 a cafetorium, office, and additional classrooms were added to Del Mar School, part of the Mound District, on Hill Road, where Mound Elementary is today. They were the pioneers in providing education for the blind. The school was closed temporarily in 1982, but reopened in 1988 as a magnet year-round school. A second school was added the fall of 1962 when Juanamaria School was added, named after Juana Maria, the heroine of Scott O'Dell's novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins.
The Avenue School District became operational in 1888, the school consisting of two classrooms and costing $9000. The picture of the school was taken in 1895. It was replaced by the present building in 1914. A second school, E. P. Foster, was added in 1929. Students from Avenue School (grades 4-6) were moved there when Avenue closed in 1982.
The Mill School District was founded on the upper Avenue in 1878, but in 1981 it was extensively damaged by flood. Because of that and its near proximity to an oil refinery, it closed in 1982 and was sold the following year.
Joining Ventura Unified from the Nordhoff District in 1966 was Oak View, Arnaz, and Santa Ana. Oak View, built in 1948, is now used for other community services. Arnaz, built in 1962, is now called Sunset. Santa Ana was built in 1957, closed in 1981, and reopened in 1983 as a private school.
Construction of a new Junipero Serra Elementary school fell seriously behind schedule and facilities were shared the first part of the 1967-1968 school year with Juanamaria, Both schools operated on double session schedule until Serra opened in January.
Ventura’s first new school in ten years was dedicated in the fall of 1978 as Portola Elementary. The only permanent structures were the administrative office and cafe-torium, with portables used as classrooms. It was updated in the 2000-2001 school year.
The newest of Ventura’s elementary schools is Citrus Glen Elementary School in east Ventura, opened in the fall of 1999 to accommodate the growth in that part of town.
Foothill Technology High School, on Day Road across from the college, was started in March, 2001, focusing on technology and health careers. For a year space was rented at the college and the students moved to the new school in April, 2002. Also on Day Road are Project Secure, with special needs and pre-vocational programs, and the previously mentioned El Camino High School.
In June, 2003 a great opportunity to purchase the Kinko (originally Vetco) complex on Stanley Avenue occurred. This allowed the VUSD to consolidate its administrative offices in a centralized fashion. Between 2004 and 2007 the Arcade and Santa Clara district offices were sold and the moved completed.
Many thanks to the many individuals who helped fill in details for this article. Pictures courtesy of: Eric Daily, Bob Immel, Glenda Jackson, Dorothy Lee, Dena Mercer, Dotie Wheeler, and San Buenaventura Conservancy Association. The education which started in homes and the mission has evolved about one hundred fifty years later, in 2009, to the Ventura Unified School District, involving two comprehensive high schools, a magnet school, continuation school, Adult Ed school, independent study high school, Community Day School, four middle schools, and seventeen elementary schools, all serving approximately 17,550 students. Ventura now has an administration complex, schools, students, and personnel of which to be proud. The townspeople long ago could not have envisioned the massive changes that have taken place, with a Ventura population now in 2009 of 108,787. Who knows what the future has in store!
No matter what changes may occur, quality education of the students is the main goal.
Bibliography: * Johnson, Gary. “Ventura College: A 75 Year History.” 2000. Available from. Accessed 08 Apr 2009.
* Lee, Dorothy Jue. “A History of the San Buenaventura School District.” 1969. Copy at Ventura Historical Museum Library.
* Manion, D. Kenneth, Maintenance/Operations Technician. “Public Schools in Ventura: A Chronology. December, 1996.
* Rogers, John. End of an Era. 1966. San Buenaventura School District.
* Rooney, Patrick O. History of the Ventura Unified School District, 1862-1986. Copy at Ventura Unified School District office.
* Nicholas, Helen, researcher. “Cabrillo Middle School History” [video]. 1997.
* Ventura High School La Revista yearbooks. Various years.
* Ventura Unified School District Office of Business Services
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