First Tustin school opened 137 years ago

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Built in 1882 to replace Tustinís first school, an unoccupied house,
this two-story school building complete with bell tower cost
just a little more than $5,000. Photo courtesy Tustin Area Museum

Tustin schools will mark their 137th anniversary next week, Feb. 5 to be exact.

Soon after his wife and five children arrived in Tustin City, Columbus Tustin set about establishing a school for the area he had designated as the School Block on the settlementís first plat map in 1870. A block between C and B and Second and Third streets, the property had a small one-story house on the southwest corner, on the north side of Third, close to B, which could be used as a school house.

On Feb. 5, 1872, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (Orange County did not exist) established a school district, calling it Sycamore School District because of the native sycamores growing on the site. Minutes from meetings of the board of trustees show that Miss Anna Cosad was hired as the first teacher for a salary of $60 a month.

E.C. Utt, who attended this first school, recalled in later years that about 28 students from a dozen or so families were enrolled in grades 1 through 8, although their attendance was irregular.
Miss Cosad didnít stay too long. Salaries were raised with some men receiving as much as $100 while women were paid between $50 and $80, but few teachers lasted more than a year and many quit after a month or two.

The district paid Tustin $8 per month rent until about 1875 when they purchased the building for $700. In 1882 it was replaced by a two-story school with two classrooms on each floor. A bell tower held the school bell that is now displayed in front of the Tustin Unified School district office on C Street. This two-story school was enlarged about 1890 when Sycamore School District became Tustin School District.

My mother, my aunts and uncle attended Tustin Grammar School. They often recalled how they and other students from outlying areas traveled to school by horse and buggy, arriving early to unhitch, feed, water and tether their horse for the day in the school stable. They also remembered that the boys and girls had separate play yards divided by a fence.

This building was used until 1914 when a single-level primary school and a two-story grammar school were built . Students graduating from eighth grade went to Santa Ana High until Tustin High School District formed and built a high school in 1922.

The district adopted the neighborhood schools format in the 1950s, closing the primary and grammar schools and razing the buildings. The Senior Center now occupies the elementary school site and the Presbyterian Church has expanded into the area used by the primary school. The original Tustin High School buildings were replaced in 1960 and Foothill High School opened in 1963.


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