History

Union School District has undergone dramatic changes since the pioneering families first met in 1858 to discuss hiring a teacher for their children. Since its earliest beginnings, strong, active community involvement has been a consistent hallmark of Union School District. Beginning with the traditional one-room schoolhouse that served the rural community for the first half century, to the rapid expansion of the 50’s and 60’s, to the slowing birth rate and subsequent restructuring of the 80’s, the District has continually changed to meet the evolving needs of the community.

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Officially formed in 1863, during the Civil War, the District was named ‘Union’ to express the residents’ strong sense of loyalty to the Union Army. The first “Union School” was designed as a portable school on skids, which could be pulled from ranch to ranch by a team of horses. On one occasion, the school was moved twice in one night to accommodate the growing demand for education. Families of the school children took turns providing room and board for the teacher and supplying oak wood for the schoolroom’s potbellied stove.

The first permanent school, a traditional one-room schoolhouse surrounded by oaks and pines, was built in 1873 on an acre of land donated by Christopher Schofield, who specified that the property must be enclosed by “a hog-tight fence” and possess a well dug deep enough to provide plenty of cool, sweet water for the children. A bell was purchased from Southern Pacific Railroad and installed in the belltower, and the school proudly opened its doors.

A new and larger structure (pictured above) replaced the first Union School in 1914. The land that housed this first permanent school is now home to the District’s administrative offices, where the original bell remained in use until 1990.

Until the 1950’s, the area remained primarily agriculture with local ranches, orchards and vineyards (including the Almaden Winery) flourishing. The expansion of new companies such as IBM, Lockheed and General Electric in the 1950's, however, brought about an unprecedented population increase which led to a housing boom and the construction of fifteen new schools within a year period. Such rapid growth also stimulated the development of a District-wide curriculum, a process characterized by more open communication and community involvement.

In the 1970’s, the decline in birth rates led to a need to restructure and consolidate. All of the District’s schools were considered excellent, and painful choices had to be made about which schools to close.

An equally painful situation arose during the early 2000's. With state revenues severely curtailed, failure of a parcel tax and declining enrollment, the District was again forced to close schools. Athenour Elementary and Lone Hill Elementary both shut their doors permanently on June 11th 2004. Students and staff were consolidated at the remaining six elementary school sites.

The District Today

Today, Union School District serves 5,000 students enrolled in six K-5 elementary and two 6-8 middle schools. The District’s students typically score in top 25 percent on state achievement tests; over 75 percent of students meet or exceed grade level outcome indicators in literacy as measured by state developed assessments.

Last Modified on August 3, 2010
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