Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
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Kindergarten Class of 1956
Saugus Elementary School


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Mrs. Bishop's 1955-56 kindergarten class at Saugus Elementary School, which was located on the east side of Bouquet Canyon Road just south of what is now Cinema Drive.

The photo is from the collection of Phyllis Benz (Froemming), who lived in Bouquet Canyon and is sitting fourth from left. (She's lightly circled in blue ink.)

Later in life, this group of students was part of the cohort that was studied by the US Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board for lingering effects from exposure to vinyl chloride at an early age.

The school, which opened at this location in 1908 (this version of the building dates to 1936), sat across the street from Keysor-Century Corp, a plastics maker that opened just 1,000 feet distant from the school in 1958 (when these kindergarteners were third graders). According to a 1984 ARB report, "The proximity of the plant and school is believed to be unique in the United States," and that's one reason the state and federal governments wanted to study them. At the time, there wasn't much research into the effects of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) on young children. Results of the studies can be found [here].

The school closed after the 1977-78 school year, at least partially due to parents' concerns about the vinyl chloride emissions. The building was significantly altered and turned into the Saugus Schoolhouse Emporium, a shopping center.

Keysor-Century lasted not quite half a century. A 2002 raid by the FBI, EPA and other agencies led to charges of violating the federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act and making false statements to federal officials (i.e., making documents disappear). The manufacturer filed for bankruptcy protection a short time later and quit in December 2003.


Saugus Elementary School opened in 1910 on a section of Charles and Anita Kellogg's farm, located in the "triangle" between present-day Magic Mountain Parkway, Bouquet Canyon Road and Valencia Boulevard. Three Saugus businessmen (Saugus Cafe co-owner Martin Wood, Saugus grocer Ore Bercaw and someone named Osborn) contributed $100 each for the construction of the wooden, New England-style building. Unlike other Saugus buildings that faced east (toward Bouquet Canyon Road), the original schoolhouse faced south. Margaret O'Connell was the first teacher.

On Nov. 12, 1908, the Saugus School District was formed from sections of the Newhall School District (est. 1879) and Castaic School District (1889).

The school construction project was put to bid a year later, on or about Oct. 15, 1909. After initial construction, the little 26x50-foot, one-story wooden schoolhouse was added onto as the school population grew — which it did, thanks in part to a 1911 state law whereby school districts were no longer funded based on area population, but by the number of kids who actually attended class. Now, school officials had a real incentive to get them there.

Tragedy struck on the night of March 12-13, 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed and sent 12.5 billion gallons of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon. Half of the student body and some school staff members — estimates range from 17 to 22 souls — perished. (The schoolhouse survived; it wasn't in the floodpath.)

By 1935 the school district was in need of more money so it asked voters for an extra $1,500 per year. They said no, 7 votes to 6.

Unphased, the school board put together a plan for a new, modern school to replace the antiquated schoolhouse. This time, on Nov. 14, 1935, voters said yes to a $22,000 construction bond measure. Coupled with a $17,181 grant from the New Deal-era Works Project Administration in early 1936, the district spent $34,913 on a brand-new Saugus School.

Two years later, on Oct. 28, 1938, the district reorganized as the Clifton Union School District, swallowing up all or parts of neighboring districts. On Feb 27, 1940, it changed its name to Saugus Union School District.

District boundaries were adjusted again in 1951 and a portion was transferred to the Sulphur Springs Union School District in Canyon Country.

The Saugus District built its second school in 1960 and gave it the same name as the housing development in Seco Canyon where it was located: "Santa Clarita." Then came Jerome Snyder School, which was temporary, followed by Honby in 1963. (Honby School was transferred in 1991 to the Sulphur Springs District and renamed Canyon Springs.) From there, campus contsruction moved at a fever pace.

But the original Saugus School site's days as a learning facility were numbered. It closed after the 1977-78 school year because the population of Saugus had shifted north of Bouquet Junction and the location was no longer practical as a school site. Additionally, old timers remember the foul air that wafted over the campus from the Keysor-Century Records plant across the street, raising health concerns.

Purchased in 1978 by a private developer, the buildings were remodeled and expanded into the aptly named Saugus Schoolhouse Emporium, a shopping center. By order of the school board on Aug. 2, 1978, its bell (whose authenticity as the original 1908 bell has been questioned) was placed in the "custodial care" of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society with the intent that it be placed in the Felton School at Mentryville "until such time as a possible permanent location should be found."[1] In 2000 the Historical Society placed it on permanent loan to the city of Santa Clarita for the bell tower of the Newhall Metrolink Station, where it hangs today.

Campus Openings

Saugus — 1910 (closed 1978)

Santa Clarita — 1960

Jerome Snyder — 1962 (temporary)

Honby — 1963 (transferred to Sulphur Springs in 1991 and renamed Canyon Springs)

Bouquet — 1966 (26590 Bouquet; served as the district office from 1966-93)

Cedarcreek — 1966

Skyblue Mesa — 1966

Rosedell — 1967

Emblem — 1968

Rio Vista — 1968

Highlands — 1970

Valley View — 1972 (transferred to Sulphur Springs in 1982)

Seco Canyon — 1987 (temporary, closed 1990)

Bouquet Canyon — 1989 (modular)

James Foster — 1989

Charles Helmers — 1990

(SUSD Office in Valencia — 1993)

Mountainview — 1996

Plum Canyon — 1998

North Park — 1999

Bridgeport — 2002

Tesoro del Valle — 2005

West Creek Academy — 2010


Notes.

1. Minutes of SUSD Governing Board Meeting of Aug. 2, 1978, regarding the Saugus School bell: "On motion of Mrs. Lund, second of Mr. White, and a unanimous vote, authorization was given to place the Saugus School bell in the custodial care of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, to be housed at the restored Mentryville School site in Pico Canyon in Newhall until such time as a possible permanent location should be found."


HB5601: 19200 dpi jpeg from smaller jpeg courtesy of Phyllis Benz Froemming | Online image only.
SAUGUS SCHOOL

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Construction 1909-1910

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Earliest 1910

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Original 1910

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Expansion

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1936-38 Rebuild

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Kindergarten 1956

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SUSD Mystery Photos 1960s

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Why Did Saugus School Close?

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School Bell Through the Years

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School Bell @SCVHS

• Protocol to Trace Saugus School Students Exposed to Vinyl Chloride (ARB 1984)


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