Litchfield Elementary School History
The Litchfield Elementary School has an interesting beginning as its first eleven students started classes on October 9, 1917 in an old cook shack. It had wooden floors, a double roof and canvas side flaps. This school was started by J. L. Rayner who had moved here from California and settled in the area of the Agua Fria River. The Southwest Cotton Company, a subsidiary of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, had purchased 16,000 acres of land in this area to plant cotton for the cord in their new pneumatic tire. This brought several hundred new laborers with families into the area. The area developed quickly and under the direction of J. L. Rayner the Litchfield School District #79 was established on June 25, 1917.
Mrs. Mabel Padgett, wife of John Padgett a surveyor for Goodyear, was the first teacher. Mr. Rayner arranged for seats, equipment and free textbooks. The school’s enrollment increased daily and by January 1, 1918 enrollment had reached 80 children. Plans were made to select a permanent school site. The site chosen was the corner of Old Litchfield Rd and Agua Fria St. which is now Wigwam Blvd. To finance the new buildings a school bond for $6,000 was voted in on August 1, 1918. Plans were made to build four one- room adobe buildings on the school site. Mrs. Padgett occupied the first adobe building and the second year the second one was built. All were built in three years and the school had a total of four teachers. In 1920, a Mexican elementary school was formed in the Mexican housing area. This was to support the children who did not speak the English language. This school was eventually moved into the Litchfield School.
In 1925, the Community leaders saw the need for a high school for the older boys and girls. Phoenix Union High School was the closest area high school and transportation was a problem. Mr. L.D. Shumway, the Principal of Peoria High School was employed and the 9th Grade was taught that year in a temporary building off campus. Mr. Paul Litchfield was a strong supporter and under his leadership a local high school district was established in the spring of 1928. A $36,000 bond issue was approved on May 1, 1928 for a building program. All high school grades were offered in the fall of the 1928 school year. The high school was completed that year and dedicated to Paul W. Litchfield as it was believed his influence had made the school possible. Forty high school students occupied this building and during the next few years the entire school enrollment increased rapidly.
In 1935, a $7,000 bond issue was voted into the Elementary School District and another building was added. Mr. Shumway was Principal of the Litchfield Schools from 1928-1947. During his administration he added every sport to the school program. During Mr. Shumway’s time as principal the school became one of the outstanding schools of its size in the valley. His success was attributed to the high quality of teachers on his staff.
In 1954, enrollment in Litchfield High School had caused a strain on available facilities. There was a plan to establish a Union High School to accommodate all high school students living in Litchfield Park, Avondale and Goodyear. It was decided the new school would be in Avondale. Agua Fria High School was established to accommodate 350 students. The first Superintendent of Agua Fria Union High School was Chauncey Coor. It opened on a temporary basis in 1956-57 school year with some classes still being held in the Litchfield Park High School. It became fully operational in January of 1957.
As of 2016, the Litchfield Elementary School District #79 has 15 Schools and Agua Fria Union High School District #216 has 4 High Schools.