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Bisbee School History

Bisbee School District 

Puma Memories Program August 2022

Our History Our Future

Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine.  The city of Bisbee now includes the satellite communities of Warren, Lowell, and San Jose. The Lowell and Warren townsites were consolidated into Bisbee proper during the early part of the twentieth century. There are also smaller neighborhoods interspersed between these larger boroughs, including Galena, Bakerville, Tintown, South Bisbee, Briggs, and Saginaw.


The first school became a reality in 1823.  Bisbee’s first school house was a little unused miners shack, a short distance from Castle Rock.   The equipment was crude and primitive with planks set on nail kegs serving as desks.


In 1881, Bisbee District #2 became a reality.  Board chairman  H.C. Stillman   sent for his recently graduated sister Clara,  who traveled 10 days from  Connecticut to become the first Bisbee teacher at a monthly salary of $75.   The doors opened with 5 students, 3 girls and 2 boys in October of 1881. 


In 1883 the Copper Queen Company built and donated a 1 room adobe building for schooling.  This was located on what became the site of Central School in 1902.   


Up until 1905, Phelps Dodge had built and donated the schools. As the town grew, it became evident  that they needed to build it’s own.  Bisbee’s children became proactive and fought to have a $75,000 bond passed.  The children were credited with playing a huge role in the 294-86 victory for bonds.  The money was raised to build the finest public school building in the territory and the new Central School was occupied on Nov 20, 1905. 

Central School 1905

On June 1, 1906 the first High School graduation was held and 4 young ladies received their diplomas.  One of the graduates was Elsie Tolles, she went on to be elected as Cochise County Superintendent and in 1921 was elected as Arizona State School Superintendent.


Even though the first graduating class was in 1906, it was not until the next year 1907 that the voters of Bisbee district duly established a high school under the territorial laws of Arizona.  This school was located in  Central School until Bisbee High School was opened for the 1914-1915 school year.


The original Bisbee High School is located on Clawson Avenue and is currently owned and occupied by Cochise County Government Offices.  The high school was built to house 450 students and was built with 4 levels including the basement.  The residents at the time could boast that it had the best school building in the state. The high school was listed in Ripley’s Believe it or not based on the fact that all four levels have a street level entrance.  In material, equipment and teaching force, BHS was second to none in the state.   The school was utilized until 1959 when a new high school was built in Warren.

Original Bisbee High School

Schools have opened and closed since 1881 and today Bisbee is operating with 3 school buildings and educating approximately 700 students. 

Greenway, the elementary school was built in 1917. This campus has been expanded over the years and is still used for grades K-5.

Greenway Elementary

Lowell Junior High School was opened in 1932 and the gymnasium and kitchen was added in 1976.  This school was considered the finest in the state and included many innovations.  The tradition of the school building serving the community continued and the 1000 seat auditorium has seen many years of concerts, plays and community events. One unique feature of this school is the copper plated front doors.  This campus currently educates students in grades 6-8.

Lowell Junior High

The current Bisbee High School was built in 1959 and serves grades 9-12.

Bisbee High School

Bisbee has a rich history in sports.  Warren Ballpark was built in 1909 by the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company (which later merged with Phelps Dodge) as a recreation for the miners and their families, pre-dating the construction of Chicago's Wrigley Field by nearly five years. This historic park has been the Home Of The Pumas since its inception and because of those games, the park has the distinction of being the oldest continual use ballpark in the US.  Bisbee also holds the distinction of annually competing in the oldest rivalry game in Arizona with their football game against Douglas High School.  This game was first played in 1906 and marked the 150th meeting in the fall of 2019.  The winner of the game gets to claim the “Copper Pick Trophy” for the year.  The trophy was smelted at the Douglas refinery and was funded by Phelps Dodge mining company.  The Pick was first awarded in 1944 with Bisbee winning the honor to be the first school to be awarded the trophy.

Presently the district operates on a four-day school week, the district utilizes the Advancement Via Individual Determination Program (AVID) philosophy district-wide with AVID electives at the secondary campuses.  The AVID program is designed to increase graduation rates and increase the number attending college or other post-secondary education.  Students learn they can think critically, collaborate, and set high expectations to confidently conquer the challenges that await them. Classroom instruction is designed to be engaging, rigorous, and student-centered.

The district incorporates the Capturing Kids Hearts program which is a relationship building approach incorporated into all classes. Greenway Elementary and Lowell Junior High have been recognized as National Showcase Schools.

The secondary level offers a variety of electives and career and technology courses for students.  We also offer a variety of extracurricular activities for students including sports, band and academic teams.

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