top of page

Madera’s classroom explosion

Madera County Historical Society Madera’s first school, East Side Elementary, is shown here. By 1953, it had been replaced by five elementary schools and one junior high school.


Last week we wrote about Madera’s first educational facilities. The town built its first school, a little one-room affair on Yosemite Avenue, in 1877. By 1892, we had grown to such an extent that we built a second school on West Yosemite. The two facilities were respectively known as Eastside Elementary and Westside Elementary.

Then Madera High School was formed in 1894, and until it built its own facility in 1904, classes were held in the upstairs classrooms of Westside Elementary.

After the turn of the 20th century came Lincoln and Pershing Schools. In 1922, Madera, having closed the Eastside and Westside Elementary Schools, built Washington School to accommodate children north of the Fresno River, and that’s the way things remained until 1949 — Madera had Lincoln, Pershing and Washington schools. Then came the explosion, although it fizzled just a bit in the beginning.

Madera’s next school was Sierra Vista Elementary, but things didn’t turn out as planned right away. There were serious construction problems, and the classrooms were not open to students until 1951. By then Madera was experiencing a severe classroom crunch, and the city threw caution to the wind. An ambitious building program was put into motion, and by 1952, Madera had two more new elementary schools and ground broken for a new junior high school. The explosion had begun in earnest.

By June of 1952, the new schools had names, and principals were announced for the two elementary facilities. One of the new schools was named John Adams, and the other was named James Madison. The new junior high school was designated Thomas Jefferson.

September of 1952 saw the opening of five elementary schools in Madera: Pershing, Washington, Lincoln, Adams, and Madison. Meanwhile ground was broken for Thomas Jefferson. Plans called for the closing of Lincoln when Thomas Jefferson was completed.

With the new schools came new administrators and a shifting of one of the veterans. Pershing School principal, Sterling Campbell became head of John Adams, and Henry S. Muceus was brought in from Tuolumne County to take his place at Pershing. Attendance and Welfare officer, Walter Crowley became principal of the new Madison School while Washington Principal, Louis Bigger, Lincoln principal, J.N. Pyers, and Sierra Vista School head, James C. Wasley remained at those sites.

Thomas Jefferson Junior High School

Superintendent Harvey Hood of the Madera Elementary School District then announced that Madera had been assured that its plans for Thomas Jefferson Junior High School would be accepted by the State. After meeting with the state architect, Hood said that the district could begin to advertise for bids for construction of the facility. The district had set aside 20 acres on Sunset and Pine Avenues for the school, which was planned for 7th and 8th graders.

On Monday, May 6, 1952 Graham and Jensen, contractors from Merced, submitted the low bid for construction of the new junior high school, which had been given the name “Thomas Jefferson.” The figure came in at $758,864. The company set the construction time at “five days less than one year.

Superintendent Hood announced that the new school would house Lincoln School’s 7th and 8th graders while its kindergarten through 6th graders would be divided between Adams and Madison.

The need for the new junior high school was underscored at the Lincoln School graduation on June 11, 1952. Two hundred eighty-three eighth graders received their diplomas. It was the second largest graduating class in the school’s history.

On June 18, 1952, the Madera School Board broke ground for Thomas Jefferson Junior High School, and within a month plans were announced for yet another elementary school in Madera.

James Monroe

School Superintendent Harvey Hood announced on July 29, 1952, that the school board was submitting plans for another elementary school for Madera. It would be located over a mile north of town on North Lake Street and would be known as James Monroe School.

Meanwhile, the district was also looking in the direction of an area known as “Little Oklahoma,” south of town.

“Someday there will be a school in the Little Oklahoma area,” said Superintendent Hood. “How long in the future, we don’t know,” Hood continued, “but there will have to be a school there eventually.” That prophecy was fulfilled with Cesar Chavez Elementary.

School opens in 1952

For the first time in several years, Madera opened its schools without double sessions and barracks classrooms. The opening of John Adams and James Madison schools eliminated the necessity for these emergency housing arrangements.

September 15, 1952 was the opening day for Madera’s six local elementary schools. They were James Monroe, John Adams, Lincoln, Pershing, Sierra Vista, and Washington.

It took over 50 years before Madera built another school, but when it did, the town experienced another classroom explosion that is continuing to this very day. That, however, will have to wait for another time. Please stay tuned.

bottom of page