Growing Havasu: Lake Havasu High School saw busy start, even amid construction

March 19, 2019 GMT

Fifty years ago, Lake Havasu City was barely a speck against Arizona’s desert landscape, bordered by jagged red cliffs and miles of sandy beaches.

But throughout the country, the town was gaining attention.

With the recent addition of the world-famous London Bridge, and a growing reputation as a resort community, flights were arriving in Havasu each week, ferrying prospective homebuyers throughout the country to see what the city had to offer.

And although the city was host to only a few winding streets and a handful of businesses, more people were choosing Havasu as a place to live, play and work. And they were bringing their children with them.

Lake Havasu High School began construction in 1968, and was scheduled to open in September 1969. With only four buildings, the campus was built to accommodate about 400 students.

With 15 teachers on staff, administrators expected an initial class of about 250 — but they underestimated Havasu’s growing popularity. By the time Lake Havasu High School opened, 340 students were registered.

“We knew this was a booming community,” said George A. Goldey, Lake Havasu High School’s first principal, in a 1969 interview. “We just didn’t think it would be moving this fast, not even in our wildest expectations.”

Before the high school’s construction, the only option for Havasu’s high school students was to travel by bus to attend classes in Kingman, at what was then Mohave County Union High School.

According to statements from students to the Lake Havasu City Herald in 1969, a number of parents and their families chose to move to Havasu that year specifically because the high school had been completed.

The campus was at the time home to nine classrooms, three business education rooms, a home-making lab, one chemistry and physics lab, a general science lab, a music room, gymnasium and a preparation room for the school’s teachers.

At the time, tennis courts and a track field were still under construction, and high school football players practiced at a nearby sod farm for lack of a stadium.

Even as construction continued, however, Goldey expected only further growth for the school.

“The Havasu area has a tendency to explode population-wise, and it is extremely difficult to estimate the rate of growth,” Goldey told Lake Havasu City Herald reporters in 1969. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Lake Havasu High School to be the biggest school in Mohave County by 1972, or maybe even 1971.”

Since then, Lake Havasu High School has expanded to accommodate thousands of students and dozens of classrooms, with its own bookstore, career and technical education facilities, a full cafeteria and the school’s new stadium, named for the Lake Havasu Knights’ first football coach, Lee Barnes.

The school provides education for more students than any other municipality in Mohave County, with about 1,721 students enrolled as of this March.