Symbol of Growth : Castaic Opens 2nd School in District, Marks Centennial

Times Staff Writer

For nearly 100 years, one school was all Castaic ever needed. It was, after all, the kind of place where horses and cattle generally outnumbered children.

But today, as the Castaic School District prepares to celebrate its centennial, the tiny district is opening its second campus, Live Oak Elementary School.

“When I came here, there were 450 students in the entire district,” said Sharon Millen, Live Oak principal and former principal of Castaic Elementary School. In the 4 years since her arrival, new housing developments have pushed district enrollment past 1,000 students.

Live Oak has more than 500 students, many of them residents of a new housing tract surrounding the school near Hasley Canyon Road, west of the Golden State Freeway. The school can accommodate up to 600 students, and empty portions of the campus await more classrooms sure to be installed in the future.


In the last 8 years, the unincorporated town of Castaic has grown from 2,500 residents to 5,000. Its population is expected to hit 25,000 by 2010.

5th Smallest District

But even with the new elementary school, Castaic remains the fifth smallest of 82 school districts in Los Angeles County, according to the county Office of Education. The smallest is the Gorman School District, with 43 students.

Last week, plumbers and electricians tinkered with sinks and clocks to prepare for the opening of the $6.8-million campus. New computers and chairs remained wrapped in plastic. Sawdust littered the floors.

But Millen, a cheerful and energetic woman who likes to jog each week with her students--"It’s great therapy for the principal, and it’s good exercise for the kids"--was confident all would be ready when school bells herald the start of class today.

Millen said the centennial celebration will become a springboard for discussion of Castaic’s history and world events since 1889. The children will participate in a country fair that will kick off the celebration in June.

In its early days, the district consisted of a one-room schoolhouse, with white walls and green trim, that was heated by a large potbellied stove. The school was so small it was once moved on the back of a wagon.

Michelle Edmunson, a parent who is co-chairman of the centennial committee, said the discovery of gold in Castaic in 1876 and an oil strike a few years later fueled the town’s growth, eventually leading to construction of its first school in March, 1889.

The district was so tiny that until 1984 the principal doubled as superintendent. When Millen was hired 4 years ago, she technically became the district’s first principal, a confusing fact for some youngsters. A few children, Millen said, asked if she hailed from the days of the potbellied stove.

Until the recent suburban growth, Castaic had become known as a truck stop. That reputation developed after 1914, when grocer Sam Parsons started a general store to supply workers building the Ridge Route, said Jerry Reynolds, president of the Santa Clarita Historical Society.

Students of Castaic history will learn, Reynolds said, that it has always been a stopping place for travelers. Spanish friars built an outpost of the San Fernando Mission there in 1804. In 1847, Lt. Col. John C. Fremont camped at Castaic on his way to what is now North Hollywood to sign the Treaty of Cahuenga, which ceded Mexico’s holdings north of the Rio Grande to the United States.

Two future Live Oak students had more immediate concerns last week. Clint Fredrickson, 10, and Barett Peterson, 8, watched from their bikes as a construction crew poured concrete on the playground. The new school, they agreed, looked beautiful.

“I can hardly wait,” Barett said.