It’s August. Kids are heading back to class.
It’s a great time for the rest of us to get educated, too, about Scottsdale-area schools’ history.
For 120 years, Scottsdale public, parochial and private schools have produced a bumper crop of well-rounded citizens.
Memorize these facts about them. There might be a test!
When Scottsdale had fewer than 100 residents, Alza Blount began teaching her children and a few others in her home, the Adobe House, circa 1894-95. By 1896, there were enough school-age children to warrant a school. Residents chose Winfield Scott, John Tait and Frank Titus to the first school board, and Scottsdale School District No. 48 officially was recognized. One weekend in September, 1896, townsfolk built a one-room wooden schoolhouse – with outhouse, which served its educational purpose during the week, and then hosted ecumenical church services and community events on weekends. Winfield Scott was a frequent speaker, captivating students with his Civil War recollections.
After several additions to the wooden schoolhouse, a larger, more permanent structure was needed. In 1909, Scottsdale voters unanimously passed the town’s first school bond issue, $5,000, to fund construction of the Scottsdale Grammar School. Classes began in September 1909. The “Little Red Schoolhouse” was dedicated Feb. 26, 1910, on Winfield Scott’s birthday. Scott was joined by Arizona Territorial Governor Richard Sloan and Governor of Indiana Thomas Marshall, a frequent winter visitor with his wife, Lois Kimsey. Today the building is the Scottsdale Historical Museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since Scottsdale was a farming and ranching village during its first six decades, school hours were tailored to the needs of farm families. Students had to do their farm chores before and after classes. Many children rode their horses to school. Bus service began in the 1920s.
To meet the demands of a growing population, Scottsdale High School was built on Indian School Road in time for the 1922-23 school year. A new, larger Scottsdale Grammar School opened at the southwestern corner of Marshall Way and Second Street in 1928. It was renamed Loloma Elementary and now is home to the Scottsdale Artists School. The Little Red Schoolhouse was renamed the Coronado School and used as a transitional school for Grades 1-3 for immigrant children, who then transferred to Scottsdale Grammar School.
Scottsdale High and Scottsdale Grammar School were enlarged during the 1930s using Depression-era WPA funds. Scottsdale High was closed in 1983 and razed for site redevelopment in 1991-92
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Scottsdale area’s first private schools debuted. George Judson opened Judson School for boys in 1928 in what is now El Chorro Lodge in Paradise Valley. The school moved to a larger campus and girls were admitted to Judson in 1956. The school closed in 2000. The site now is a luxury-home enclave. Jokake opened on the grounds of the Jokake Inn on Camelback Road as a private girls’ school in 1933. Guests of the inn as well as co-eds of the school took overnight trips via horseback to the Jokake Desert Camp at the foothills of the McDowells. Brownmoor School for Girls moved into what had been the Ingleside Inn, between Indian School and Thomas roads along the Crosscut Canal, in 1945, and operated as a boarding and day school through 1958.
The post-World War II population boom created the need for additional public and private schools in Scottsdale. In this school-building era, the Scottsdale School Board made two key decisions: Students should be able to walk to a neighborhood elementary school and schools should have names honoring Native American traditions. First to open was Tavan in 1954, followed by Kachina in 1955, Ingleside and Tonto in 1956, Kiva in 1957, Kaibab and Tonalea in 1958, and Pima and Supai as well as Arcadia High School in 1959.
In 1955, Scottsdale students received the new Salk anti-polio vaccine, a three-shot series, to combat the polio epidemic. Scottsdale residents met at Scottsdale High to learn Civil Defense measures at the height of the 1950s Cold War.
New private and parochial schools also met post-war Baby Boom demand. Camelback Desert School was established in 1950. In 1953, the Arizona Conference of Seventh Day Adventists relocated its Thunderbird Adventist Academy boarding and day school to what had been the World War II aviation cadet training base Thunderbird II Airfield. The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hall, with guidance from Father Eugene Maguire, opened Our Lady of Perpetual Help School on Miller Road in 1956. In 1960, Mae Sue and Franz Talley founded Talley Academy, later named Phoenix Country Day School.
When television began broadcasting educational programming, three women with Scottsdale ties were pioneers. Miss Francis (Arlene Horwich) hosted “Ding Dong School” on NBC in the 1950s. She retired in Scottsdale. Miss Sherri (Finkbine) hosted the local “Romper Room” during the early 1960s. Former principal of Scottsdale and Chaparral High schools Evelyn Caskey taught classes on “Seminar 61” via the Chicago area CBS affiliate in 1960-61 before coming to Scottsdale’s Coronado High School.
As Scottsdale’s population grew from 10,000 in 1960 to more than 88,000 in 1980, school construction continued in all directions, especially in newly-annexed land. Hohokam, Hopi and Navajo opened in 1960. Paiute and Yavapai elementary schools opened in 1961 as did Coronado High School. Mohave opened in 1962, Cocopah and Apache opened in 1965-66, Saguaro High School in 1966-67, Pueblo in 1970, Chaparral High School in 1972, Cherokee in 1974 and Cochise in 1980.
During the 1960s and 1970s, schools closed whenever Indian Bend Wash flooded connecting streets. Development of the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt Flood Control Project solved that perennial issue. A more enjoyable day off from school occurred every winter when schools closed on Parada del Sol Friday so that families could attend the parade and rodeo.
Scottsdale High co-eds were selected to serve as Scottsdale’s official welcoming committee, the Howdy Dudettes, during the 1960s and 1970s. Students collected coins to help fund the Bennie Gonzales-designed Youth Fountain adjacent to the new City Hall. In 1968, the Scottsdale High Key Club helped the newly-formed Scottsdale Historical Society circulate petitions to save the historic Little Red Schoolhouse. In 1971, local youth were first appointed to the Scottsdale Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board. During the early 1990s, local students collected pennies to fund a civil-rights exhibit at the Lincoln Memorial.
In 1976, the city installed a Honeywell computer system that it agreed to share with Scottsdale Unified School District.
As Scottsdale annexed land and the population moved north, students were now living within the boundaries of the Paradise Valley Unified School District, which begins as far south as Cactus Road, goes north to Jomax Road and east to Pima Road in Scottsdale. Among the first schools Scottsdale students attended within the PVUSD was Desert Shadows Elementary, opened in 1972. Then came Sonoran Sky Elementary in 1994, just south of Scottsdale Airpark, Grayhawk Elementary in 1998 and Pinnacle Peak Elementary in 2001.
Scottsdale Unified School District built schools east and north during the 1980s and 1990s: Anasazi School in 1986, Laguna in 1987, Sequoya in 1988, Zuni in 1989, Mountainside Middle School in 1991, Aztec in 1993, Desert Mountawin High in 1995, Desert Canyon Middle School in 1996, Copper Ridge Middle School in 2002.
Notre Dame Prep and the King David School opened in 2004, Rancho Solano in 2012. During the past decade dozens of private, charter, parochial and special-needs schools have opened throughout the Scottsdale area.
Students living north of Jomax Road in Scottsdale attend Cactus Shadows High School in the Cave Creek Unified School District.
Teachers and administrators have not only made history through their dedication to teaching; several have distinguished themselves outside the classroom. For example, Scottsdale High civics teacher Bill Jenkins was Scottsdale mayor from 1974 to 1980. Tom Smith, a teacher and administrator at several Scottsdale schools, was in the Arizona Legislature and a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer. Former Coronado High history teacher Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s Official State Historian and author of many books.
Scottsdale schools have produced world-renowned athletes, scholars, astronauts, scientists, media personalities, authors, actors, musicians, politicians, entrepreneurs, parents, voters, volunteers and neighbors.
Now you’ve been properly schooled in Scottsdale’s educational history. Thank a teacher, and see you at recess!