History of the Vineland School District
The Vineland School District encompasses 33 square miles in rural/agricultural southeast Kern County and is composed of two schools: Vineland Elementary School, which serves students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade; and Sunset Middle School, which serves students in grades five through eight.
The Vineland School District was formed on May 9, 1890, as a one-school district and during its first year of operation had an average daily attendance of fourteen students. Enrollment in the district remained quite small until after 1920 when the beginnings of large-scale agricultural development attracted migrant farm workers to the area. By the 1929-1930 school year, the average daily attendance in the district was 225 students. Ten years later, the average daily attendance rose to 309 students.
Between April 1935 and December 1936, the federal government’s New Deal Resettlement Administration (RA) had relocated many struggling rural and urban families to planned communities. In 1936, the Works Progress Administration under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration constructed the Arvin Federal Camp and Sunset Labor Camp, which later became known as the Weedpatch Camp to provide affordable housing to thousands of families during the time of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.
In September of 1940 the Arvin Federal Emergency School was created by then county Superintendent of Schools, Leo B. Hart, to serve the children from a large migrant labor camp that had been established in the area. Located between Arvin and Weedpatch and situated on Weedpatch Highway, it was more commonly referred to as “Weedpatch Camp” by the families who lived there. The “Okie” children from the camp were not given a warm welcome in the nearby public schools and, in fact, were often poorly treated there. Leo Hart, who had been elected county superintendent of schools in 1939, was aware of the problem and determined to find a way to provide for the special needs of these children. He began his efforts by leasing a 10 acre site adjacent to the labor camp and, using the two old condemned buildings on the property to house the “fifty poorly clad, undernourished, and skeptical youngsters,” started the federal migratory school, or, as it came to be called, the Weedpatch School. Renovation of the two buildings and construction of additional facilities was accomplished exclusively by the children and their teachers. They learned the art of making adobe bricks and also how to make shelves, chairs, and even desks. The students dug ditches for water lines and even dug a swimming pool, which was the first public pool in Kern County. Once it became operational, students at the Weedpatch School were offered a curriculum far different from that of other public schools in the area. They learned everything from the practical aspects of agriculture and animal husbandry to airplane mechanics and the cobbling of shoes. During its first year of operation, from September of 1940 to May 1941, approximately 200 students attended Weedpatch School. Its success, due largely to the unique curriculum and a dedicated staff, gained a great deal of favorable attention and before much time had passed, once-hostile members of the community began to express interest in having their own children attend Weedpatch.
The declared emergency that had given birth to Superintendent Hart’s creation could, by law, last no more than five years, and so Arvin Federal Emergency School was forced out of existence in 1944 and was absorbed by the Vineland School District, thus swelling the district’s average daily attendance to over 600 students. The earthquake of 1952 destroyed the one story brick building at Vineland School and all but one of the original buildings on the Weedpatch site. Between 1952-1957 the district reconstructed the two schools’ buildings and renamed Weedpatch School as Sunset School. The bell located at Vineland School was used in two early schools to call children to school for more than 60 years. Average daily attendance remained stable over the next ten years, finally topping the 700 mark during the 1969-1970 school year. However, enrollment fell off considerably in the 1970’s, and by the 1978-1979 school year, the average daily attendance had slipped to just over 500 students. Mild to moderate growth returned in the 1980’s and 1990’s and since the 1995-1996 school year the average daily attendance has held steady between 700-800 students.