Above: First schoolhouse in Aromas

In the 1870s with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad, pioneer farmers began settling in Aromas. With more families moving to Aromas, the Aromas School District was formed in 1889. The first classes were held on the Weeks’ family property.  The first teacher, Miss Emma Kerr taught all grades and had 75 students. After a few years, a new school was needed.  In 1895, two wooden framed buildings were designed by the young architect, William Weeks.  One of the buildings still stands today. It was a gas station but is not in use today.

In 1917, the Aromas School District absorbed the Vega School District.  By 1925, a second school was built for the growing number of students.  This school was most likely designed by William Weeks noting the symmetrical wings, mission-style lines, and tile roof. The early records were lost but residents were sure that Mr. Weeks designed the building and donated all the tile for the roof.  Weeks wrote in an article titled Some Notes on School Planning the following: “Good architecture is one of the greatest assets in the building up of a community, adding to one’s civic pride, and making a favorable impression on the home seeker.”

A new principal was hired for the new five room school. Principal Walter Reed also taught seventh and eighth grades. Helen Webb transferred to the new school when she was 14, and was a member of the first graduating class. She said the school was “lovely” and everyone thought it was “grand.”

Principal Reed hired Leola, young woman for a teaching position.  However, after a few years, she quit teaching to marry the principal. At that time, female teachers were not allowed to be married. Leola was able to return to teaching later when that ruling was revoked. Walter Reed retired in 1947 after serving 22 years as the Aromas School principal.

Around 1947, the school building was condemned by the state because its tile roof was not earthquake proof.  This building still stands on the corner of Blohm Avenue and Carpenteria Avenue.  For many years it served as the Aromas Fire Department. Records show title was transferred by the school to the Aromas volunteer firemen for $1, and they later transferred the title to the Aromas Fire Department for $1.  It is now is a grocery store and library.

Aromas school believed to be designed by local architect William Weeks

Aromas school was transferred to the Aromas volunteer firemen around 1947 for $1, and later to the Fire Department for $1. Currently the building houses a library and grocery store.

Sept. 1921 Pearl Totten, Teacher

In 1950 the main building of the current school was built. In 1965, Aromas School was absorbed into the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.  However, in 1991, the parents voted to leave the Pajaro School District, and formed the current Aromas-San Juan School District.

If you would like to know more about Watsonville or Aromas history, check into these two books:

Watsonville: Memories that Linger by Betty Lewis

Aromastory book article by Tina Baine