Education has always been a high priority in the city of Irvine. This dates back to 1899, when James H. Irvine built a school on his ranch. Irvine was a strong believer in the value of education. His grandfather, Harvey Rice, is credited with establishing the public school system in the state of Ohio. So when the newly formed San Joaquin School District suggested that he build a school for the children of his ranch tenants, Irvine selected a site, donated the land to the county and built a new school without delay.
Like everything else in Irvine’s little town, which was named Myford until 1914, the school was near the railroad tracks and the warehouse. In fact, classes were held inside the San Joaquin Warehouse until the schoolhouse was ready for students. A schoolmarm named Miss Smith taught the lessons.
The schoolhouse faced Central Avenue (now Sand Canyon). It was spacious and accommodating with several rooms, a kitchen, and a large hall with a stage at one end. A gazebo was built on the north side of the school near the railroad, and a shed for horses stood behind the school. In 1911, the school had an enrollment of 100 pupils with an average attendance of 80. All students were the children of tenant farmers and, since it was a rural school, many attended class barefoot.
A second and much larger school was built in 1929, on the northeastern edge of town, near present day Sand Canyon and the 5 Freeway. The old school became a community center, and dances were held there once a month. An orchestra played for special occasions like the New Year’s Eve Dance. So many came to the dances that locals worried they would wear out the oak floors. The original school house stood until 1971 when it was demolished.