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Maple Elementary School

          The Maple School District was organized in 1910 to serve the youngsters in the rich agricultural area north and west of Shafter. About a dozen students were in attendance that first year, all under the tutelage of Miss Eleanor Caroll. The original schoolhouse was situated on ten acres of land at the corner of Lerdo Highway and Palm Avenue but that building was relocated in 1926 to a site on Fresno Avenue just west of Wasco Avenue.

          A new school, comprised of five classrooms, an auditorium, a shop, and a cafeteria, was built on the Fresno Avenue site in 1938. Unfortunately that school was destroyed by fire in March of 1961, faulty electrical wiring being the probable cause. Planning for the construction of a new facility began almost immediately and the “new” Maple School, was completed about a year later. It is still fully used today, some forty years later. During that year of planning and construction, Maple School students were housed in classrooms provided by the elementary and high school districts in Wasco.

          As noted above, the Maple district began with just a handful of students in 1910 and it would remain small for the next twenty years, until about 1930 and the onset of the Great Depression. The economic hardships experienced during the Depression years, teamed with a period of extended drought in many of the southwestern states, prompted thousands of families to seek a better life in California. In the decade of the 1930s the Central Valley experienced a huge influx of agricultural workers causing enrollment to skyrocket in many districts.

          Maple’s enrollment had jumped to almost 160 students by 1930 but, unlike many of the surrounding districts, enrollment leveled off there and for the next thirty years the district experienced virtually no growth, the recorded ADA for the 1961-62 school year being just 165 students. There then followed a slow but steady decline in enrollment as the children in the district’s farm families matured and fewer of elementary school age were to be found in each household. Concerned over the continuing loss of revenue due to dwindling enrollment, the district held a tax election in June of 1972 asking voters to approve an increase in the tax rate from $2.30 to $3.00 per $100 of assessed valuation. The measure was approved with 78 “aye” votes vs. 56 “no” votes. The added revenue helped for a while but when, in 1974, the ADA fell to just 90 120 students, more drastic measures were called for and, reluctantly, the teaching staff was reduced from six teachers to five. By November of 1978 enrollment had fallen to just 88 students and trustees began to wonder if they were going to be able to keep the school doors open. That proved to be the low point, however, and the picture brightened as enrollment began to increase at a slow but steady rate and by 1984 the district was serving some 130 students. Several years of decline in enrollment followed, however, and by 1990, with district trustees well aware that low enrollment was going to be a continuing problem, the Maple district opted to open their doors to children from outside the district boundaries. Enrollment grew steadily from that point and, in 2005, stood at 266, with approximately three-fourths of those students having transferred from schools in Wasco, Shafter, Buttonwillow, and Bakersfield. The district has a target maximum enrollment of 270 students and has no trouble maintaining attendance at that level. There is, in fact, a waiting list of potential enrollees from outside the district and selections are made from that list as openings occur at any particular grade level. Transportation is provided only for those students who live within district boundaries. Maple maintains one class per grade level and, in an effort to avoid combination classes, the district has opted not to take the supplementary state funds now available for class size reduction.

          To the district’s great advantage, they have, over the years, had very effective leadership. Dr. Kelly Blanton, who would later serve as the county superintendent of schools, succeeded Clyde Johnston as principal/ superintendent of Maple in 1967 and served in that capacity for five years. Blanton resigned and moved into the county office in 1971 and was replaced by Ingiver Ketelsen. Gordon Walter took over from Ketelsen in 1975, then resigned and was replaced by Dr. Carl Olsen in 1985. Olsen stayed just two years before resigning to take over as superintendent of the Fruitvale School District. Olsen handed the reins over to Ann Paslay, who was followed in 2008-09, by Rebecca Devahl.

School remodel preview picture of MPR