History of Warm Springs School

The first school in the Warm Springs area opened in 1863 in a shed, 12 feet by 14 feet, located on the Wilson property.  Elizabeth Ann Valpey Shaw taught 15 pupils there for three months in order to organize a district. The Higuera School District was established and named in the honor of the Higuera family, the most prominent Spanish name in the Warm Springs area.

Ygnacio Anastacio Higuera came to California with the de Anza Expedition of 1776.  Jose Higuera was appointed Mayordomo of Mission San Jose in 1822 and was the grantee of Las Tularcitos Ranch in the Milpitas area. In 1836 his son, Fulgencio Higuera, was granted Rancho Agua Caliente.  The term agua caliente means warm water in Spanish.


In 1864, a small schoolhouse was built across Warm Springs Boulevard from the present school. The name was changed to Warm Spring School District in 1866, and the "s" was added later to form Warm Springs.  The name is taken from the real warm springs that flow from the hillside at the present Hidden Valley Ranch on Stanford Avenue. The building was remodeled in 1879.  The report of the Alameda county superintendent in 1877 noted that the school did not have "sufficient grounds."

The teacher in 1879 reported that she was using McGuffey's readers but admitted that she didn't always stick to the course of study.  She commented, "you who are an old teacher will understand how hard it is to do justice to all in an ungraded school.  I am aware that I have no authority to use the word book but it is the wish of the patrons of the school that their children learn to spell correctly.


A new building was constructed in 1889 on Warm Springs Boulevard across from the old building.  It was a commodious school building from the old building that cost $6,000 and was located about eight feet behind the building of today. The old building was sold to the Christian Church and later burned.

May Davis came to teach in 1913. Her students included Rose Vargas and her daughter Evelyn Brown. Miss Davis stayed long enough to teach "the third generation."

Mr. Brown's daughter, Evelyn, was one of the students at Warm Springs School.  She later graduated from Washington Union High School and served a secretary to the district superintendents at both Washington and Fremont Unified School Districts.

Leslie Maffey served as a teacher and principal until 1944.  His wife, Eva also taught here from 1927 to 1944. Joe Brown was a trustee from 1918 to 1929 and sometimes board meetings were held in his Warm Springs grocery store.

Trustees wrestled with the problem of maintaining the old building.  One August meeting they faced the questions of "fixing the fence, covering the toilet with shingles, putting a door on the tank house, cleaning it and the yard, and fixing window jambs."  The question of a new school came up but they decided this was not the proper time because the "residents were very busy" with the prune harvest.

They called for a bond election in 1930 but it failed, and building plans were postponed again.  The depression was hurting everyone and salaries had to be reduced in 1932 "on account of the shortage of funds."  They had to be reduced again the next year. The trustees called a meeting to hear what the taxpayers had to say concerning the budget. The trustees met and waited but "nobody showed up."

In 1936, the present building was erected in front of the old 1889 schoolhouse.  The enrollment ranged between 70 and 90, then established around 100 except during the spring pea harvest of the 1930's and '40's. When the Mexican families moved in to harvest the peas the enrollment spurted up to as high as 165.

A cafeteria was started in 1952 and Edna Treleavere was the cook.  The children ate in the room that is now used as the library.

In 1953, the staff was increased to four teachers when Mrs. Appel was hired to teach third grade in the upstairs room.  Francis Trembley became principal in 1955. At that time, a band was organized.

James Sullivan became principal in 1959. Because of the growth that began in the late 1950's, Joe Bettencourt's walnut orchard was pulled out to make way for two new classroom wings and the playground.



In 1960, two subdivisions were developed.  The enrollment shot up to over 600 students.  Portables were added in 1961.  Mr. Sullivan was made principal-superintendent in 1962. A kindergarten began and a teacher was hired for each grade. There were four separate additions beginning with a kitchen, portable classrooms, and three wings.  The school expanded seven times its size in four years.

By 1963, the district had grown to 29 teachers.  The 662 students were on double session.  Mr. Sullivan was made full time superintendent, and the Board of Trustees decided to build a new school on Warren Avenue to be named James Leitch in honor of the Leitch family.  Because of the need for space, the Warm Springs district offices were housed in a tract home bought by the district for that purpose.  It was sold after unification.

Warm Springs merged with the other districts to form the Fremont Unified School District in 1964 and Al Semenza became principal.  James Howden became principal in 1969, and upon his death in 1973, Howard Johnson became the school's 29th principal.

The mascot also has a history.  It  has been changed from the "raiders" to "warriors" to the current mascot, the "wolves."

The school has added several classrooms to accommodate the 20 to 1 ratio in the third grade.  The Science and Computer Labs and Library were modernized in 2000.  In 2008, the district purchased the first ever two-story, seven classroom portable building placed by the third grade classrooms to accommodate the ever increasing Warm Springs student population.  Hence, making Warm Springs Elementary a very unique environment with an average of ten third grade and nine of each 4-6 grade classrooms, bringing our current enrollment over 1100 students.  In 2016, Warm Springs opened a brand new twelve classroom, two story permanent structure.  This building currently houses all 3rd grade students.

This history of the school was written in a documentary called Reflections - The Educational Heritage of Fremont, compiled and edited by Philip Holmes and Dolores Rose.