• Del Mar Area History

    The story of the Del Mar School District is the story of dedicated individuals who sought to make a difference in the lives of children and their families. It is a commitment that continues to this day.

    Original Del Mar Schoolhouse
    Country Schools

    The first schools moved from barn to barn in the sparsely populated area now known as Del Mar and Solana Beach, in the 1870's and 1880's. Teachers in those days not only taught students, but they lived with a farm family during the school year. Generally, the teacher's living quarters was a shack built onto the side of the family's barn. The teacher helped the family by doing chores, such as the family's laundry. Going to school in a barn had some disadvantages, as you can imagine - there were roosters crowing and lots of flies! Students didn't have paper, but they had little blackboards, and they wrote their lessons in chalk.

    Before 1900, there was a country school on Carmel Valley Road called the Soledad School. Soledad School had a library for adults too. Eventually the school closed down, and the students joined the Del Mar School District.

    Del Mar's First School

    Del Mar's first school was built in 1888. It was located on 10th Street on a hill about two blocks east of Camino del Mar. Del Mar was then a small village of about 25 cottages. The teacher used to heat the school building by burning wood in an iron stove. The students used the one room on the lower floor as their classroom, and they ate their lunches outside. The upstairs room was used for storage.

    The school was known for its good plays - every pupil would act in them; the mothers would make the costumes; and the whole town would come to the performances.

    Creation of the School District

    The Del Mar School District was created October 3, 1906 after a survey of the entire Soledad and San Dieguito District indicated that there were 28 children between the ages of 5 and 17. At that time, most of the land in this area was owned by the South Coast Land Company, the company that brought the railroad to Del Mar. The District was created by the efforts of the railroad company to locate a place for their section crew workers to live. Bond issues were approved on June 3, 1907.

    The 10th Street School

    By 1920, Del Mar was a growing town, and a bigger school was needed. A new school was built at Camino del Mar and 10th Street, the location of the current government offices of the City of Del Mar. By September 1921, the new school was ready, and 36 students in Grades 1 to 8 started school. The first kindergarten was not held until 1946. Eventually, a concrete wall was built to keep out the noise of the trucks and cars, since the school was on the main street.

    No history of the 10th Street School can be told without mentioning Ruth Grove Niemann. She came to Del Mar in 1919, as an unmarried lady, and taught students in the old schoolhouse. When she retired in 1956, she was Mrs. Niemann, principal of Del Mar Shores School with 12 classrooms. In the beginning, Mrs. Niemann was the schoolteacher, principal, superintendent, secretary, nurse, counselor, and janitor, all rolled into one. She stayed up very late each night preparing her lesson plans, because she had eight different grades to teach the next day!

    The Shores School

    By 1945, there were three teachers at the 10th Street School, one using the basement as a classroom, and the School Board bought five acres of land for a new school on 9th Street - what we now know as the "Shores School". A $55,000 bond was passed by the voters for constructing three classrooms. During the Thanksgiving holiday in 1947, the three teachers moved all movable parts of the old building to the Shores School, and the old school on 10th Street was sold. The school grew rapidly and expansion was required. A $60,000 bond was passed in 1949, and new classrooms were occupied in 1951. The driving force through this period of expansion was Ruth Grove Neimann, and the Multi-Purpose Room at the Shores School is named in her honor. She retired in 1956.

    More Schools

    As the school district continued to grow, a new school was built in 1965 on the eastern edge of town - Del Mar Heights School, followed by Del Mar Hills School in 1974. The enrollment of the school district was 1,120 students in 1976 at three schools. Enrollment declined slightly in later years, as the population in the City of Del Mar stabilized and the boom in Carmel Valley had not yet occurred. The Shores School was no longer used as a public school, since all the growth was moving east.

    Once construction of homes in Carmel Valley commenced, the school district's enrollment exploded. In 1992, Carmel Del Mar School opened, which was the District's first school east of Interstate 5. Following Carmel Del Mar was the opening of Ashley Falls School in 1998, Sage Canyon School in 2000, Torrey Hills School in 2002, and Sycamore Ridge in 2005.  The District's eighth school, Ocean Air School, opened in September 2007. All of these schools are in Carmel Valley. Current enrollment is approximately 4,400 students.

    Whether the enrollment is 36 students or 4,400 students, the spirit of pioneers like Ruth Grove Niemann to provide the best education possible in the best facilities possible is alive and well in those who have followed her.

    (Research compiled from a variety of sources, including "One Hundred Years of Going to School in Del Mar, 1872-1976" by Alice Goodkind and other District documents.)