The History of Bishop Elementary
Bishop School is an important piece in the historical puzzle of the Sunnyvale community. The building of Bishop School marked an important milepost in the life of the town. To understand Bishop's historical significance, it is important to understand some things about Sunnyvale before World War II.
Before 1940, Sunnyvale was a relatively small, "sleepy", agricultural community that concerned itself mainly with growing, canning, and packing fruits and vegetables. Before the war, Sunnyvale School District consisted of two schools: Encina School and Mckinley School. Encina School was built in 1899. The school was named for the town which was then called Encina or Encinal ("where oak trees grow"). This school was built for the children of the local farms and ranches. Originally, it had twenty students. In 1920, Encina no longer was large enough for the more than 100 students the district educated, so McKinley School (later named Sunnyvale Grammar School) was built on a nearby site. Both of these facilities were located next to the original City Hall which was eventually replaced by the Sunnyvale Town Center Shopping Mall. In the center courtyard you will see the original Encina school bell, and a number of tall pine trees that were planted to commemorate important community events in front of Sunnyvale's most important part of town--the City Hall and school.
By 1940, Sunnyvale began to be a busier, more bustling place. The Hendy Ironworks became a major industrial hub for the war-effort making all the motors for submarines. (Now the site of the Westinghouse Marine division--still making engines for submarines, among other things!). During the war years, a visionary man, Dr. Stanley Ellis became the Superintendent of the Sunnyvale School District. Dr. Ellis was at first intent on adding to or replacing the existing school. He enlisted the best educators of the day in planning a school district appropriate for post-war Sunnyvale. The long-range plan called for the demolition of Sunnyvale Grammar School and the creation of three schools (Sunnyvale Avenue School, Pastoria School and Fair Oaks School - now Bishop, Adair/Sunnyvale Senior Center, and Ellis School) each in housing areas which could soon support neighborhood schools.
The first planned school was the Sunnyvale Avenue School. Dr. Ellis had a vision that this school would be exemplary in every detail. It would have many windows to let in lots of light and have spacious, tree-filled grounds. Dr. Ellis was very involved in community life and felt an auditorium at this school site would help build community involvement at the school and help extend the possibilities for community gatherings which were becoming too numerous for the City Hall auditorium to handle. Money for education then, as today, was in short supply. The proposed Sunnyvale Avenue School was financed by many grants--some earmarked for "model," innovative new school creations, which meant making the school available to all the educators of the day to study various parts of the school design. The school grounds were donated to the district by the Bishop family whose son "Jar" (Jarvis E.) had been killed in the war, the first Army soldier from Sunnyvale to die in World War II (the first Air Force soldier to die in the war was the son of the Adair family, hence Adair School, now the Sunnyvale Senior Center). The Bishop family had owned a large parcel of land around the school and farmed it in apricots and walnuts. The new Bishop School was built to house most of the district's students. The demographics of the day estimated there would be no more than 1,000 students . . . ever!
Special features of the school were the auditorium, fireplaces in the kindergartens and the library, and the large, airy classrooms. In the beginning the school even had an infirmary (large health center) with bathtubs available so that the children of migrant worker families could have the opportunity to take baths while at school and to receive valuable medical care. Educators visited Bishop School from all over the state. Bishop School's plan was copied by many districts and written about in educational journals of the day. In the time between the closing of the original City Hall, and the opening of the Sunnyvale Community Center, Bishop School's Auditorium was THE community site for all plays and large gatherings of people. A wrinkle in Dr. Ellis' plan for the district was the arrival of the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in 1952. This event was described by former Mayor and now County Supervisor Ron Gonzales as being like "someone turned on the light and Sunnyvale woke up!!" After Lockheed arrived and established its facility, other companies followed. Many farmers sold their land to developers who built more businesses and housing tracts for the new industrial workers. Suddenly people moved to Sunnyvale by droves. Everywhere one looked, new housing tracts were emerging. In much of the new housing were young families with school aged children. Within the next 15 years Sunnyvale would need to build at least one school a year, finally creating 18 schools which were filled to the doors with the children of the post-war baby boom.
By 1970, Bishop School became not just THE school, but one of the eighteen schools. But the baby boom and housing development slowed and schools were closed and sold and Bishop remained as one of the ten remaining schools that now comprise the Sunnyvale School District. Bishop School remains one of the most attractive and accommodating school facilities in the Sunnyvale School District, and as Dr. Ellis planned, the school with the most light, best grounds and largest classrooms.