Carpinteria Unified School District has suffered from declining enrollment over the last decade, but in the mid-20th century the school population was growing at a rapid clip. With Aliso and Main schools filled and plans to convert Main into a junior high school, a new elementary school was a must. The district turned its attention to a large property bordered by Linden Avenue and El Carro Lane for its next project.
Late in the fall of 1954, Canalino School opened with just one classroom each for kindergarten, first, second and third grades. Mary Foley, a member of the first kindergarten class to attend Canalino School, remembers being driven with fellow kindergartner Wendy Bliss to the unopened Canalino campus from their temporary classroom at Aliso School in the early fall of 1954. District officials used the two girls to adjust the next desks on the campus—Foley was the tallest in the class, and Bliss was the shortest.
Jeff Boyd, another classmate of Foley’s, also recalls the move as a kindergartner onto the incomplete campus. Only the long building closest to El Carro Lane had been built. The kindergarten classroom was located nearest to Linden Avenue, where the little scholars had their own play yard.
“They hadn’t even started to construct the rest of the buildings,” Boyd remembered. He attended school through third grade at Canalino, moving down one classroom each year. By the time Boyd was set to enter fourth grade, the rest of the campus remained unfinished. The nomadic Canalino fourth-graders were sent to a temporary classroom in the Aliso School cafeteria, until the following year, when the rest of their elementary school was complete.
Boyd and Foley both remember the newness of the Canalino campus. Foley called it “modern and state of the art,” with new chalkboards, desks, student cubbies, heated floors, etc. Boyd recalls that in kindergarten, the teacher would schedule a naptime and give students a paper towel to put under their heads when they lay down to go to sleep on the new rug.
Years after the initial drawn-out construction of Canalino, the current kindergarten building was built in the northeast corner of the school. About 10 to 12 years ago, a major upgrade of the campus took place. Changes included a new parking lot and play area by the kindergarten building, a new bus pick-up area, a parking lot next door at the district offices and improved landscaping and fencing, according to Don Bensen, whose architecture firm, Kruger, Bensen, Ziemer, designed the project. Several portable classrooms have also found homes on the elementary campus over the last 20 years. Additionally, in recent years the Carpinteria Family School has made its home on the campus.
Much of the information presented in this multi-week series has come from Jayne Craven Caldwell’s in-depth history of Carpinteria schools included in her book “More about Carpinteria As It Was.”