Interesting Facts About the John Swett Unified School District

When it all began
Because their advantageous position near the Carquinez Strait (the name for the area of water where the Sacramento River meets San Pablo Bay) allowed easy access to the many ships traveling to San Francisco in the late 1800s, Crockett, Port Costa, Rodeo, and Hercules became “Old West” boomtowns with the introduction of industry to the area. Grain warehouses, a smelting plant that refined gold, silver and lead, and a dynamite factory all attracted men looking for work, including many recent immigrants. In time there were also houses built, marriages, children, and the need for schools. In 1881, the first school opened in Crockett with a total of 18 students.
Who was John Swett anyway?
Historians have called John Swett (1830-1913) the founder of public education in California. As state superintendent of public instruction, he laid the groundwork for a statewide system of public schools in California and influenced educators nationwide. In 1881 he purchased a farm in the nearby Alhambra Valley where he lived next door to his friend John Muir. Our school district was therefore named in honor of Dr. Swett’s significant contribution to California’s school system.
John Swett High School was designed by renowned architects
The current John Swett High School was built in 1927 by the architectural firm of Bakewell & Brown, which counts San Francisco City Hall amongst its many famous projects. The design was based upon structures at several Ivy League schools and buildings such as North and South Hall at the University of California at Berkeley.
There have been other John Swett High Schools
This is actually the third John Swett High School in Crockett. The first was located on Edwards Street, while the second was on the corner of Rolph and Pomona. Think classrooms are crowded now? The current John Swett High campus once housed as many as 770 students, making today’s enrollment of 480 seem comparatively modest.
The Middle School used to be a Grammar School
Carquinez was a K-8 campus through the 1979-1980 school year, with a district wide reorganization taking place the next year making it a 4-6th grade campus. The current configuration as a Middle School came in the early 1990s with the closing of the Garretson campus.
Earthquakes and floods attack, schools survive!
Both Carquinez Middle School and John Swett High School have seen several natural disasters. Following an earthquake in 1935, John Swett HS suffered significant structural damage that required a retrofit of the building. In 1942, heavy rains caused canyon water to overflow into Carquinez Grammar School, filling classrooms with mud and water to a depth of four feet. Cleaning up this event required building a dam across the creek, south of the school property.
Our newest school
Rodeo Hills was built to replace Hillside Elementary as the K-5 school in our district because Hillside’s close proximity to a Rodeo oil refinery was deemed a potential hazard to students and staff. While once factories and humans co-existed in the area, now the local sugar refinery and oil plant are among the only survivors of our industrial past.

Posted on 7/12 by Karl Rimbach. Many thanks to John Swett High School teacher Dean Columbo, who contributed his knowledge to this article.