The Ballard School came into being three years after the founding of the town of Ballard, the first town in the Santa Ynez valley and the seventh in Santa Barbara County.  With the town growing rapidly in its early years, the need for a school became readily apparent and the Ballard School District was officially formed in 1882.

School in Ballard was first held in the granary owned by George Lewis.  In 1882, the school was moved to an empty building with an old west style, high store front, which for the short time carried a “Saloon” sign.  The saloon business was most profitable and the building was moved to a more favorable location for use as a school.

The district bonded itself for $1,000 for the construction of a new school including the building and furnishings.  The project cost over $1,000 and George Lewis, the founder of the Ballard community and the school’s first clerk of the Board of Trustees, donated the extra $100 to cover the cost of the building.  The monetary gift was in addition to a half-acre donated by Lewis for the school site.

The original building measured 24 x 32 feet and was painted yellow instead of the customary red it is today.  The familiar bell tower was added to the structure in about 1890.  A stage addition to the north end of the building came about 20 years later.

In its earliest years the school offered all eight grades.  In subsequent years the grade levels varied with K-4 being offered most often at Ballard School.  Following the fourth grade, students went to one of the surrounding valley districts for grades 5-8.  As of the 1990-1991 school year, Ballard School once again offered grades K-8.  As of the 1996-1997 school year, 7th & 8th grade students started attending the new middle school program at Los Olivos School under a five year Joint Powers Agreement between the two school districts.

A large number of Ballard School alumni have matriculated at higher institutions of learning, including the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Stanford University and other leading colleges and universities.

For many years, the original schoolroom served as the only class center.  With an increase in enrollment in the early 1960’s, the stage area was divided from the classroom with a portable partition and a second teacher was added to the faculty.

In earlier days, the parents of the children supplied their books for the upper grades which offered instruction in physics, botany, bookkeeping, word analysis, entomology, physical geography, algebra, geometry, arithmetic, spelling, reading and grammar.  Books were expensive and money was scarce.  As a result, the books were handed down from pupil to pupil.

School in the 1880’s was kept in session from 9:00 am. to 4:00 pm. with an hour lunch break at noon and a 20 minute recess in the morning and afternoon.  The playground in the early years was divided by a fence with the girls playing on one side of the field and the boys on the other.  The students did their own janitorial work, with the girls giving the school a thorough sweeping and dusting once a week.

Because the schoolhouse was the only public building in the valley in the early days, it was often used for church services, weddings, funerals and the meeting place of the Good Templar Lodge and the Farmer’s Alliance.  It also served as a site for lectures, social entertainment, lively debates, singing and Saturday night dances.

Faced with the prospect of meeting Field Act (earthquake standards) requirements or closing the school, voters of the Ballard School District approved a $120,000 bond issue on July 10th, 1973, to rehabilitate and retrofit the building.  With proceeds from the bond issue, a contract was awarded to local contractor, Paul Nielsen, to bring the Ballard School up to the Field Act requirements.  The school was literally rebuilt from the foundation up.  The Santa Cruz redwood of the original building still serves well.  The inside has been carpeted to cover the original floors and the plaster walls are now finished with a layer of plywood, cork and vinyl.

Plans executed by architect Robert Ingle Hoyt of Santa Barbara also allowed for the creation of a wing-like addition to the north end of the building in the former stage area.  This resulted in a total of 2,000 square feet of available classroom space.  This 1973 remodel also included for the first time indoor restrooms for boys and girls.  Electricity had been added to the school in the 1950’s.  Bond proceeds were also used to purchase all new furnishings as well as some equipment for the school.

As the school embarked on its second 100 years, the expansion of the school was planned in September 1982.  Plans called for the construction of a new three classroom building and a small administrative building on the five acre site adjacent to the original building.  The land was acquired by the district in the spring of 1975 and was purchased with reserve funds at a cost of $7,000 an acre.  A total of five acres was purchased from a private party who lived in Los Angeles.

The new buildings were funded with a $777,994 grant from the State Department of General Services, Office of Local Assistance.  The new annex brought relief to the overcrowding of students in the Red Schoolhouse.  The new buildings were completed and occupied during the Christmas holidays in 1984.  Since then, Ballard has continued to grow and accommodate grades K-8.

Since 1991, the student population has doubled and required more classroom space.  In 1995, two additional custom modular buildings were constructed on site using general fund reserves and collected developer fees.  The resulting construction includes an upper grade classroom complete with science stations and additional space for a class computer lab.  Also, a multipurpose room was constructed and is large enough to accommodate the whole student population for assemblies and activities.

History compiled by former Superintendent, Kathleen Sherrill in 1991.
Updated in 1996.

Here are some memories from former students of Ballard school

A class picture of the 1958-1959 Mrs. Larsen’s 1-2-3rd class.

A class picture of the 1959-1960 Mrs. Larsen’s 1-2-3rd class.

“I remember when we were naughty, Mrs. Larson would have us work in her garden, which was located around the entire school, underneath the windows.  When we were not working in the garden at recess, we were to stay completely away from it.  When I went back and found the school, about 30 years later, I went up to the school to look in through the windows, as the school was closed that day, and I remember standing about 3 feet back away from the windows and stretching my body across to the building so as not to step in the “garden” area while I looked in.  It was a reflex that had apparently stayed with me subconsciously.  Funny how that happens.   Since then, I have gone back one more time, and I noticed that the shrubs that were there the previous time were gone.  I’m not sure what is there right now.

I also remembered hanging up my things in the little coat room and I couldn’t wait to have it be my turn to ring the bell. We used to have first, second and third grade all in one room.  My brother was a lot older, and he went to the Dunn School.  I never did find that school when I went back to visit, but someone said it still exists.  I remember going there for the fourth grade, then we moved.

I also remember certain people in my class, but only their first names.  I had a big crush on someone named Bruce, the red-haired boy, and Bobby had a crush on me.  His sister, Rosemary, was my best friend, and we all rode the same school bus.  Those were the days!

Thanks for keeping my first memories of school alive and still in progress.”

Nancy (Wilson) Miller