The area that now is called Palo Alto has been inhabited for the past 5,000 years. Ohlone Indians lived here before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1769. The next hundred years saw the development of the missions along the length of California, followed by the granting of ranchos by Mexico to its favored citizens.
The gradual movement of people into the area led to the formation of the town called Palo Alto (meaning tall tree) and its growth into the city we know today. Two major events have materially formed the city - the founding of Stanford University in 1891 and the founding of Hewlett Packard in 1939. With the first event, the intellectual and cultural seeds of the city were sown; with the latter event came the development of the town as a leader in technology and business.
The school district was founded on March 20, 1893. The first school opened in September 1893 with two teachers and 70 pupils crowded into a temporary two-room schoolhouse.
The District grew until 1967, when enrollment peaked at 15,575 students. At that time the District operated twenty-two K-6 elementary schools, three 7-9 junior high schools and three 10-12 high schools.
Enrollment began to decline in the 1970s and continued to decline through the 1980s. The bottom of the decline was reached in 1989 when total enrollment stood at 7,452. The configuration of schools then stood at eleven elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools.
Jordan Middle School has since been reopened as enrollment has increased, and in September 1998, a twelfth elementary school, Barron Park, was opened. In August 2001, Terman Middle School reopened as a third middle school.