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July 20, 2010 > History: What Happened to Our School?

History: What Happened to Our School?

By Phil Holmes

For about 100 years the towns that now make up Fremont each had a school district with one school each. New schools were built to replace those no longer useable, but no district ever had more than one school. That concept ended with the unprecedented growth that began in the 1950's when people started moving to the suburbs. Suddenly the population zoomed. The biggest growth took place in the Irvington area. In 1950, the combined enrollment of the Mission San Jose and Irvington Districts was 420. In 1961 it was over 8,300! State school financing required that foundations be in place in order to receive funding, and it was not uncommon for superintendents to spend their Saturdays counting foundations!

District enrollment peaked in 1972-73 at over 33,000. A decline in enrollment, almost as dramatic as its increase, would soon begin. Families that had moved into new homes during the growth period remained. The children had grown, fewer schools were needed, and closures began in the late 70's. The loss of the neighborhood school can be very painful for a community and upsetting to many. Eleven schools built in 12 years would eventually close. Each has its own story.

The first district to add a second school was Centerville with the construction of Norris School in 1953. Named for Judge Allen G. Norris, a longtime Centerville School District Trustee and member of the well known Norris family, it flourished for over 25 years. With a decline in enrollment, keeping it open was not practical and it closed in 1980. The property was sold in 1982 to the Fremont First Assembly of God and now is the site of Fremont Christian School and the Harbor Light Church.

Linda Vista was built in the Mission area in 1957. While it lived up to its Spanish name, "pretty view", it proved to be a poor location for a school and was closed in 1973. Other programs including pre-school, Native American, and adult school were housed there until it was sold and replaced with single family homes.

Olivos opened in 1958. With the unification of Fremont Unified in 1964, students were moved to nearby schools and the building was used as the district office for a time, but its location on Olive Avenue made access from major thoroughfares difficult. The offices moved and the school reopened in 1970, only to close again. The property was sold in 1984 to Bridgeport Construction for new houses.

Hacienda was built on Niles Blvd. in 1960 and thrived for some 25 years before closing. Approximately six acres were sold in 1986 to Mission Peak Homes and two acres to the Alameda County Head Start Program.

Fremont opened in the Irvington District in 1957 and closed 20 years later. It housed the Regional Occupational Program until its move into new quarters next to Kennedy High School. The land was sold for home construction.

Reynolds, named for David Reynolds who came to the area in 1869 and owned the land on which the school was built, opened in 1960. It closed after 17 years and was later sold to Standard Pacific of Northern California for single family dwellings.

Noll, named for another Irvington pioneer, Conrad Noll, opened in 1961. Conrad bought property in 1878 in the area where the school was built. It closed in 1983 and was used for a number of purposes including adult school programs. The property was sold to Forerunner Christian School.

Mowry honored pioneer Origin Mowry who arrived in California on the ship "Brooklyn" and became one of the area's most prominent citizens. It opened in 1962 and closed in 1977. With the new Hyman Center, it serves today as the district's Adult School.

Marshall was opened in 1964 and named for Earl Marshall, also a "Brooklyn" passenger and longtime member of the community. Closed in 1979, it is currently leased to Stratford Schools. Rix School honored Timothy Rix, a longtime resident of the area known as Washington Corners (Irvington) who served as its first postmaster. Opened in 1964, it closed after 13 years. A portion of the property was sold in 1985 to the Tri-City Children's Center and the rest to Citation Builders for single family dwellings.

Williamson was a continuation school named after Gladys Williamson, a longtime reporter for the Oakland Tribune who operated a private nursery school in the 30's. Opened in 1967, it closed in 1984. It was constructed of portable buildings that were moved to other locations in the district. The property was sold to the City of Fremont to be used for a Centerville Community Park expansion.

At one point, school enrollment dropped below 25,000, forcing the closure of these schools. Soon construction of new homes in other parts of the city would require new schools in those locations. This brought about the construction of Ardenwood and Forest Park Schools to the north and Weibel to the south. Enrollment has climbed to 32,000. While there will always be fluctuations, it's unlikely that the district will ever face the challenges experienced when it expanded from a few schools in 1950 to the 42 locations we have today.

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