By Cassidy Nelson and Malachi Lyford

The Vail Unified School District is currently known as one of the best districts in Arizona. It hasn’t always been like this, it became what we know it as today over time. In 1976, the Vail School was almost closed due to a lack of students. There weren’t very many people living in the area. The railroad section had closed, and many of the ranchers were moving out or not hiring as many local cowboys. Ranching was more difficult from not having enough water.  There was less work.

The Vail brothers, Walter and Edward, arrived to this area in the 1870s. They came to Arizona looking to start ranches. Walter purchased the Empire Ranch near Sonoita, and Edward started the Vail Ranch on the eastern foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. They had a silver mine, the Total Wreck, in the Empire Mountains. The profits from mining helped extend the Empire Ranch from near Sonoita all the way to the Rincon Mountains.

Ignacia and Louisa Leon pose on the railroad Signal arm at Vail Depot c1925. They attended the Vail School. Ms. McMorrow’s Advanced Art Class, Pencil Drawing

In 1880, the railroad was being built across Arizona. Walter Vail made an agreement with the Southern Pacific Railroad so that the tracks could go across some of his land. The place where the SPRR needed a siding track so that trains could pass was named after him. In 1893, Vail’s Siding was listed on a map for the first time. It was originally called Vail’s Siding, then Vail’s Station, Vails, and finally, Vail.

In 1903, people living around Vail asked the Pima County Board of Supervisors for a school for their children, and the Vail School District was formed.  The first Vail School was built across the street from where Old Vail Middle School (OVMS) is today. In 1927, a new school was built where Old Vail Middle School is. Sometime in 1931 the Trotter sisters, Esta and Lottie, came to Vail and started to teach at the Vail School. They were the main teaching staff for about 35 years. They retired in 1963

The Vail School had running water before most people in Vail. There was a water line connected to the Southern Pacific Railroad water car parked on a siding track. Later the line was connected to the SPRR cistern. Sometime in 1955 the Vail School was connected to an electrical grid.

In 1980, IBM announced it was opening a huge plant in southeast Tucson, kicking off huge growth in southeast Tucson and Vail. This event changed Vail permanently, and without it, we might not even know Vail as it is now. By 1990, student enrollment in the Vail School District had reached about 1,000 students. Later, the IBM area was transformed into the top-ranked University of Arizona Tech Park. This also caused big growth in Vail and all around.

Today the Vail Unified School District is currently home to 21 schools (with one more under construction), 12,500 students, and 1,900 employees. Without all the events that have happened, VUSD wouldn’t be how it is today.

We chose this topic because we found it very interesting to learn how the school came to be how it is now. All of the history and events that happened to get the VUSD started and how it built up to how it is now.

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