By the early 1880s, it became necessary to build a new school in the Santa Ynez Valley. A $500 bond issue was passed in 1881, an acre and a half of land was obtained, and on February 26, 1883, the first iteration of Ballard School was completed. Consisting of a single classroom measuring 20 feet by 24 feet, the new schoolhouse accommodated 16 pupils of all ages. Subjects included letters, California Counties, physics, digestion, bones and muscles, spelling, trig, presidents, diagramming sentences, etc.

When built, the schoolhouse was the only public building in Santa Ynez Valley and hosted church services, weddings, funerals, plays, socials and Saturday night dances. Various clubs and civic organizations also used this charming school. As the community grew, the community decided to increase the stature of the school building and in 1890, the belfry, which has become the symbol of this school, was added. Over the years the building has been painted both yellow, and of course, the distinctive red we all associate with schoolhouses. Ballard school is the oldest, still operating schoolhouse in Santa Barbara county, and as such, has been designated a County Landmark.

In the mid 1980s, the school went through a significant addition and upgrade. To the community’s benefit, the additional space was all accommodated in new detached structures, which allowed the original schoolhouse to be entirely preserved.