The original 10 acres of land for the Monte Vista School site was purchased from Melvin H. Barnes in March, 1946, at $1,000.00 per acre. The first five classrooms were completed in July, 1948, at a total cost of $39,815.00. School began September, 1948 with 95 students enrolling in the first 4 grades. The Monte Vista Staff for this first year was comprised of the following teachers:
- Mrs. Dorothy Anderson 1st grade teacher
- Mrs. Genevieve Sutterlin 2nd grade teacher
- Mrs. Barbara Perry 3rd grade teacher
- Mrs. Buelah Willis 4th grade teacher
Some of our problems that first year were answering complaints from the owner of the citrus
grove north of the school—children were using the grapefruit for target practice. The teachers complained of the onslaught of gnats from the citrus, throughout the year. The entire area back of the school was in cotton. Immediately upon completion of our first year of school, sub-dividers began the usual building program that always follows the opening of a new school.
During the first month of school the School Board authorized the purchase of a surplus government building to be converted into a cafeteria and also let the contract for three additional classrooms to be built. These classroom were completed in January, 1949, at which time three additional teachers were added to the Monte Vista Staff. Mr. Paul C. Gillespie was appointed principal, February 1, 1949. Upon the completion of the conversion of the government barrack building into a cafeteria the first lunches were served in the Monte Vista Cafeteria March, 1949, under the supervision of Mrs. Anna McBrayer, Cafeteria Manager. The north end of the cafeteria was also used as an office and nurse’s quarters. There were no clocks in the entire school plan and all bells and buzzers were controlled manually from a button in the office.
The first school year convened with a membership of 221 students. During this first year the Monte Vista P.T.A. was organized and Mrs. Meredith Hurlbert was elected the first P.T.A. President. Practically every family of the school was represented in the P.T.A., with a total membership of 176 members.
The 1949-50 school year began with an enrollment of over 300 students which necessitated the first three grades going on double session. The enrollment increased to 336 before the end of the year. Mrs. Dorcas Ballew was hired as school nurse during this year. The growth of the school was such that it was necessary for the School Board to request a bond issue for additional school facilities. On January 27, 1950 a bond issue for $380,000 was passed. From this bond issue the Monte Vista School received six classrooms, library, nurse’s room, home economics room, shop, storage and equipment room at a total cost of $92,996.90.
At the beginning of the 1951-52 school year there was a 50% increase in enrollment over the previous year. The seventh grade level was added. This school year convened with a total membership of 506 students which necessitated the hiring of additional teachers, home economics teacher, shop teacher, art teacher, physical education teacher, and the school secretary.
During that year, until the new classrooms were completed, we had at one time as many as 86 students in one classroom. This large enrollment required two teachers in many classrooms. The cafeteria was used as a classroom, except during lunch hour.
Until the new construction was completed the office space in the old cafeteria was used by the principal, secretary, and school nurse. An army cot was placed in the office for children who where sent to the nurse because of illness and needed to lay down. Quite frequently there would not be time to prevent a child from emesis in the office and this would require a cleaning job before regular office routine could proceed.
In September of the 1951-52 school year the School Board purchased 2 1/2 acres from Hal Grammer for $4,300.00. During that year nine classrooms, an office, and storage rooms were built at a total cost of $141,821.64, all of which was furnished by the Federal Government. The 1951-1952 year began with an increase in enrollment over the preceding year and convened with a total of 778. Since the buildings to be constructed with federal money could not be completed in time to relieve the pressure, it was necessary to build two quonset buildings which were converted into classrooms. During that year two of our classrooms had an enrollment of over 60 students. In these two classrooms it required two teachers per classroom. A full time music teacher was added to the Monte Vista Faculty this year.
During the summer of 1952, the nine classrooms and office space was completed. The school opened that fall with over 1,000 students requiring 28 classroom teachers and seven special teachers (including girls’ P.E. teacher.) Mr. Conner was placed in charge of the audio-visual educational department. The growth of the school and the district necessitated another bond issue for $675,000.00 which was passed May 22, 1953. From this bond issue the Monte Vista School was to receive 2 additional classrooms and a cafetorium at an additional cost of $105,000.00. This school year had the highest enrollment of any year in the history of the Monte Vista School. The total membership was 1,085 and the total enrollment was 1,211.
Due to the opening of the new Papago School, the enrollment of the 1953-54 school year at the Monte Vista School remained fairly stable. This year some 300 students that would have ordinarily come to Monte Vista School enrolled at Papa go School, accounting for our leveling off membership. We convened this school year with a membership of 1,050 compared with a membership of 1,085 the previous year. The new cafetorium was opened beginning the second semester of this year.
At the beginning of the 1954-55 school year the new Squaw Peak School opened with an enrollment of 200 students which lessened the pressure at the Monte Vista School, but this decrease of enrollment was not sufficient to relieve the situation and a bond issue of $850,000.00, April 12, 1955, was necessary. This bond issue included the last two additional classrooms at Monte Vista School. This addition made us a total of 27 regular classrooms and 4 temporary classrooms in the quonset buildings. The 1954-55 school year ended with a total of 950 in membership and a total enrollment of 1,079.
The 1955-56 school year showed a substantial increase in enrollment over the previous year. The school year convened with a total membership of 1,011 and a total enrollment of 1,138. This year the P.T.A. reached a total membership of 1,072 and was awarded the elementary school winner’s plaque for the largest P.T.A. membership of any school in the State of Arizona.
During the 1956-57 school year two additional positions were added to the Monte Vista School Staff. Mr. Clayton W. Gittus was appointed assistant principal and Mrs. Oldenburg was appointed as guidance counselor, each of the two positions were on a probationary and temporary basis.
The 1957-58 school year started with a membership of 919 and a total staff of 30 classroom teachers, eight special teachers, guidance counselor, audio visual director, school nurse, librarian, school secretary, assistant principal and principal.
A gradual decline in enrollment started during the 1958-59 school year. With all permanent construction completed, the classroom size was gradually approaching the normal. The staff was reduced by two classroom teachers.
The 1959-60 school year saw no outstanding changes. The enrollment had declined further to 745.
Once again, the enrollment started on the upswing during the 1960-61 school year. This year’s enrollment was 783 with no change in building construction or staff.
In the 1961-62 school year, enrollment again declined to 743. At this time, we began the process of moving regular homerooms from the Quonset buildings and the old cafeteria building. Some of these rooms were converted into storage.
In the 1962-63 school year enrollment was reduced to 721. The staff again was reduced to 38.
Starting the 1963-64 school year student enrollment was 721, which indicates the Monte Vista School [population] beginning to stabilize. Due to the death of the Principal, Mr. Paul C. Gillespie, Mr. C. W. Gittus was appointed Principal and the position of Assistant Principal was eliminated and our staff was reduced to 35. There are 25 classroom teachers, guidance counselor, librarian, school nurse, and seven special teachers.
During the 1964-65 school year, we saw our first removal of substandard temporary building. An army barracks had been placed on the grounds in 1950 as a temporary building for two years. This building housed three classrooms and an Audio-Visual workroom. Due to our decrease in enrollment to 651, and our need to alleviate a crowded intermediate playground, the barracks building (24′ x 120′) was sold and the area developed into an intermediate grade level playground.
This brings us to the current school year 1965-66 with a student enrollment of 631. The school staff includes 25 classroom teachers, seven special teachers, guidance counselor, librarian, and a band instructor shared with Lafayette school. Our classified people, which number 17, includes secretaries, nurse, cafeteria workers, and custodians.
Our school newspaper, “The News and Views”, has been featuring a “Let’s Get Acquainted” series for years. These articles are written by student reporters and give the personal details about your teachers.
(Written approximately 1966)