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The Santa Maria High School campus is undergoing a huge construction project.

The buildings facing Morrison Street, beginning with the home economic rooms behind Ethel Pope, art rooms, through the shop buildings and including the red tile roofs of the Santa Maria Junior College will all be torn down and a new three-story building will emerge. Before they are gone, we should pay our respects to their history and their beauty.

The Santa Maria High School District established the Santa Maria Junior College in 1920. A bond was passed and the college wing was built in 1937, echoing the style of the administration building and the Ethel Pope Auditorium.

The college continued to operate on the northwest corner of the high school until 1954, when it moved to the current site and was renamed Allan Hancock College.

Many Santa Maria High students remember taking classes in these rooms, including mechanical drawing in the beautiful open-beamed and curved-window classroom of Mr. Dawson, and the corner biology classroom with Mr. Crough, and then Mr. Sage. Choir and ASB with Rod and journalism classes also occupied these classrooms.

Who doesn’t remember wood shop and Mr. Rodriquez? Santa Maria High School had a metal shop, wood shop, electronics shop and mechanical drawing classes in the 1930s. Also in the ‘30s business classes were offering typing, bookkeeping, business law and other job skills. Home Ec classes included sewing, design, crafts, cooking, budgeting and entertaining.

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Did you know the SMHS home economics building has a fireplace? Home care, safety and decorating where skills taught in that classroom. Recently, the cooking classrooms were modernized.

Unfortunately, the number of these classes being offered has diminished with the push for university classes for all that began in the 2000s. SMHS has added an engineering class and that room, along with the welding and auto shop, will not be displaced.

But this summer we can say goodbye to the wood shop buildings and the home ec buildings, the art wing, the Community Health building and the Santa Maria Junior College wing. I wonder what the new classrooms will look like? Will we have cooking classrooms or will students need to travel to the farm school by the rodeo grounds?

More changes for Santa Maria High School include the front of the school located on Morrison Street. I am sure that will increase the traffic near Buena Vista Park and at the Broadway and Morrison intersection. I hope there are plans to put in a left-turn-only light at the intersection to allow more traffic from West Morrison onto Broadway. The high school will look very different from the Morrison side.

Change is inevitable. Will the change be for the best? I hope so.

If you have any information about the history of Santa Maria and/or the high school, please contact the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society at (805) 922-3130.

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Shelley Klein is a Santa Maria resident.

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