Who was Ella B. Allen?

When you are asked about your child’s school, you probably answer, “My child goes to an AMAZING school, Ella B. Allen Elementary School in beautiful Bonita!”

Did you know how our school got its name? Ella B. Allen Elementary School was built in 1947 and was the first modern school in Bonita. It was named for a beloved resident of Bonita, Mrs. Ella Bradford Allen.

Mrs. Allen, a descendant of William Bradford, was born in the town of Waverly, Massachusetts on November 30, 1858. Ella Bradford was one of 4 children when her family moved to California. She married her husband and moved to Bonita on Old Orchard Lane. In 1907, the family’s ranch house burned down and a new house was built as a fire-proof home with 14 inch, concrete walls. The house is still there on Old Orchard Lane and it has been occupied by many different Allen School families over the years.

Ella B. Allen was beloved by the community. She often babysat for families and did mending for neighbors with the intention of helping others. Before the school was built in 1947, students attended school in a one room schoolhouse that sat where the Dollar Tree store now is located on Bonita Road. It was suggested by Hazel Goes Cook, another board member of the Chula Vista Elementary School District at the time, that the new school should be named for Ella B. Allen, not because she donated the land for the new school, but because she loved the children of Bonita so much and they loved her in return!

Ella Bradford Allen

In the first years of the school, children from all over the valley rode horses to get to the school! Some students even walked barefoot from their ranch homes in the rural community in order to come to school. At recess, students would play by throwing lemons as the school was surrounded by lemon orchards. School lunches were homemade and cost only 25 cents! Ella B. Allen died in September 1947, right after the school opened. She is buried in Glen Abbey Cemetery down the street on Bonita Road. However, the school continued to thrive under the care and guidance of the principal and teachers. The first Principal at Allen School was Miss Mildred Kershner. Do you know who the school’s current Principal is? It’s Mr. John Greenwell! Read the Principal’s Corner to learn more about him.

When the school opened in 1947, it was only 1,000 square feet. Originally, the school was only the front buildings along Allen School Lane (what is now the 100 and 200 school building). The library used to be in room 201, across the breezeway from the front office. Buildings were added in the 1950s and 1960s. The Media Center, VAPA room (room 701), 800 building, and cafeteria were built in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1997, the school underwent its first major renovation. It was at this time that the original slate chalkboards and corner cabinets were removed.

The most recent modernization of the campus occurred in 2015. In that renovation, one building (behind the current 300 building) was torn down. That area is now known as the Allen Meadow. The 500 building was added and the garden was moved next to the playground also at this time. Families new to the community are surprised to learn that this school has been here since 1947 since the modernization and renovation gave the community what looks to be a new school!

In 2022, Ella B. Allen Elementary School celebrated its 75th anniversary with many celebrations, including the Allen Music Festival, an event of the Allen PTC to support programs and resources at the school. An anonymous donor also comissioned the painting of a beautiful mural to help further beautify the campus.

What is in store for the future? Ella B. Allen Elementary School will continue to grow, evolve, and change. However, it will always offer small school charm with a big heart in the largest elementary school district in California.

We are so glad that your family will now be an important part of Ella B. Allen Elementary School!

Special thanks to Sue Phelps, a former teacher at Allen Elementary, for collecting and sharing this historical account.