When the 3-member Newhall School Board hired Lester Dalbey in 1930 as principal of the district's only school, it tasked him with figuring out how to get the Santa Clarita Valley its own high school.
Everybody in town was tired of the hours-long bus ride to and from San Fernando. The local school districts at the time — Newhall, Castaic Union, Saugus, Honby, New Era and Felton (and Mint Canyon and Sulphur Springs, which are not part of this review)
— were independent at the elementary (K-8) level but were part of the Los Angeles City High School District for secondary education.
This 1933 master's thesis reflects Dalbey's initial examination of the practicalities and legalities of breaking away from Los Angeles. With the recent
St. Francis Dam Disaster wiping out much of the Saugus school population and dwindling oil production shuttering Felton after 1931-1932, Dalbey concluded that something unforeseen and major —
such as "obtaining oil in much larger quantities" — would have to accompany some far-off-in-the-future urban sprawl before the Santa Clarita Valley would have a sufficient population
to warrant its own high school, and in the meantime,
considering the small student bodies and the poor state of certain school facilities, he recommended that all districts save Castaic Union merge.
Guess what? Something major was right around the corner. Vast pools of oil were discovered under Newhall and Castaic, and World War II brought factory workers to Bermite, which built them homes.
Dalbey wrested control away from L.A. City, and the (then five) local school districts merged at the secondary level to form the Santa Clarita Union High School District, which changed its name to
William S. Hart when classes started in the fall of 1945 — with Lester Dalbey as the first superintendent and principal.
The aim of [Chapter I] is to state the problem and to explain the organization and location of Newhall, Castaic Union, Felton, Honby, New Era and Saugus School Districts, all of which are in the northern part of Los Angeles County, California, and are contiguous to one another.
Statement of the problem. In this survey a study is made of the organization and administration, teaching staff, curriculum, measurement of achievement and intelligence of the pupils, buildings and grounds, and costs in their different phases in the above named districts, all of which are independent in the elementary field, but a part of the Los Angeles City High School District. An attempt is made to make recommendations in a scientific manner for the best type of school organization for the districts studied in the survey.
The organization. Each or these six elementary school districts is a separate legal unit unto itself and is governed by its local board of trustees. Castaic Union is a union of Castaic and Live Oak Districts and is governed by a board of five members as is provided in the California Schools Laws relating to union school districts. Each of the other five districts has but a three member board of school trustees, which is also provided in the California School Laws. Each school has the eight grade plan of organization.
These schools are under the supervision of the county superintendent of schools who has assigned direct supervision to a rural supervisor for all the small independent schools in the northern part of Los Angeles County. One of the assistant superintendents of schools visits each of these schools once or twice yearly in addition to frequent visits of the rural supervisor. A representative of the visual education department of the county superintendent of schools gladly goes to any of the schools when given a special request by the board of trustees, principal, or teacher to give assistance in promoting visual education in the schools. Other supervision is given in a limited way by the full time teaching principals of Newhall, Castaic Union, and Saugus Schools in their respective districts. The health department of the county offers only such service as vaccination and other forms of immunization in the schools gratis to all parents who will give written consent for the county health department to administer such service. However, all the children as well as the adults living in the county are given free chest examinations at the health centers of the county. This service can be obtained at San Fernando, one of the county's health centers. But two of the districts in the survey have health service through a district school nurse, Newhall having her services six days a month and Saugus but one. This expense is met form the funds of the districts having such service.
Location of the schools. The six school districts in this survey lie mainly between the Ridge, the state highway over which is spoken of as the Ridge Route, and the range of mountains just north of San Fernando Valley. Newhall, the largest school in the group, has eight teachers. It is located nine miles north of San Fernando on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Saugus has two teachers and is but two miles north of Newhall. It is also on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad and is a junction for the Southern Pacific Line to Ventura extends out from here [sic]. Castaic Union, with three teachers, is ten miles north of Newhall on the Ridge Route where a new highway under construction extends from the present one to points north. New Era is located in Boquet Canyon, six and a half miles northeast of Newhall. Honby School is also six and a half miles northeast of Newhall on the Mint Canyon highway. Felton is five miles west of Newhall in Pico Canyon in the Standard Oil Company territory. The last three schools have but one teacher each.
The high school situation. All high school students in these elementary districts go by bus to the San Fernando High School, which is under the Los Angeles City School System. Pupils living in Castaic Union, Honby, and New Era Districts are required to leave their homes by six thirty in the morning and those living in Saugus and Newhall Districts at seven by bus for the San Fernando High School. This fact has caused many patrons in the past to express a desire of having a high school located within the area of these six elementary school districts.
The Los Angeles City School authorities have stated it will be impossible to give these districts a high school until their enrollment in the high school is six hundred fifty. One of the members of the Los Angeles City Board of Education stated if these districts would enter the Los Angeles City Elementary District, the city board might establish a six year high school in Newhall.
Effect of the oil industry on the community. The Pico Canyon oil fields owned and operated by the Standard Oil Company have until the present employed a sufficient number of men to have teacher school in their midst. In the summer of 1931 the company found it necessary to retrench in its operations to the extent that but four children were in attendance at the school during the school year of 1931-1932. Hence, this school year drew to a close this little school's existence in the center of California's pioneer oil fields.
Unionizing Castaic and Live Oak School Districts. Castaic and Live Oak School Districts unionized during the 1928-1929 school year. This caused a centering of small businesses in the vicinity of the Castaic Union School built to accommodate the increased enrollment brought about by unionizing. To this school children are transported up to a distance of seven miles.
San Francisquito Dam Disaster and its effect upon Saugus. In the early spring of 1928 the greatest disaster known in this section occurred when the San Francisquito Dam broke, enabling its impounded waters to rush down San Francisquito Canyon and Santa Clara Valley to the sea. Breaking in the early hours of the morning, it found most of the inhabitants in the lowlands along the water's route asleep, thus drowning hundreds of people. Many entire families were quickly swept to their doom. Two school houses, Bee and San Francisquito, were swept away. The teachers of these districts were numbered among the drowned. San Francisquito School has never been re-built as the fertile lands in its midst were so thoroughly washed away no one is able to make a living in that district. For several days following the dam disaster every available building in Newhall was used as a morgue, hundreds of bodies being brought to this place for means of identification by relatives and friends. Several families living in the Saugus District were swept away, thus reducing that school's enrollment to a considerable extent. It was not until the school year of 1931-1932 that the Saugus School enrollment equaled what it was before the dam broke in 1928.
Transportation facilities. Four of the six districts in this survey are well supplied with transportation facilities, Newhall and Saugus being the best supplied. These two are on the Valley Line of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company extending between Los Angeles City and San Francisco. Saugus is a railway junction, as a branch line extends out from there to Fillmore, Santa Paula, and Ventura. Greyhound Bus service is given all except Felton and New Era Districts. Newhall, Saugus, and Castaic are on the Valley Highway extending to San Francisco and points north. The new route over the Ridge which is being built to shorten the distance to Bakersfield and to eliminate most of the grades, extends out from the present highway at Castaic. Weldon Canyon cut-off is but two miles west of Newhall and a like distance west of Saugus. Honby is situated on the Mint Canyon highway. Felton District, while easily accessible by way of Pico Canyon, is the most isolated of any of the districts in the survey. New Era is located on the Bouquet Canyon road, most of which is yet unpaved.
Conclusion. While Newhall and vicinity can rightly boast of their historical background, any rapid addition to their population will probably have to come in some manner at this time unseen, such as obtaining oil in much larger quantities than it has been found in the past. However, as the urban centers extend farther to the north, it may be in time to come this area will benefit by such urban extension.