Desert Vista Elementary School turns 30 years old

A Desert Vista Elementary School staff photo. (Submitted photo)

It was Aug. 28, 1989. Cher was crooning “If I could turn back time,” the B52s were grooving to “Love Shack,” a gallon of gas cost 97 cents and Ronald Reagan was the commander in chief.

On that special day in 1989 Desert Vista Elementary School, 3701 E. Broadway Ave. in Apache Junction opened and welcomed approximately 750 students through its arched entryway. 

To celebrate its third decade of educating students, DVES students and staff dressed in 1980s garb, tunes from the ’80s played during student drop-off and pick-up, the campus was decorated and Corey McCloskey from Fox 10 News was slated to stop by, according to a release.

Over the last two weeks former staff and students have been submitting pictures and sharing memories on the AJUSD Facebook page @ajusd43. Many of the students featured in the nostalgic photos are now teachers for Apache Junction Unified School District, the release states. 

“In 2003 I was drawn to this wonderful school district as a teacher and have proudly served as principal of DVES since 2011,” Principal Pat Smith said in the release. “When we open our gates at the beginning of each school year I know wonderful things will be achieved through academic learning and a lifetime of memories will be made. The partnerships of our parents, PTO, and community organizations are the best around. We all believe and know that together we can move mountains!” 

Principal Gary Loutzenheiser with students in 1989. (Submitted photo)

Back in 1989, Gary Loutzenheiser, who had served as the principal of Four Peaks Elementary School, was tapped to be the principal of the 77,000-square-foot DVES campus. In a letter sent to AJUSD, the retired principal wrote this comment to the staff and former students in recognition of its celebration. Below is an excerpt: 

“It is hard to believe that 30 years have passed since we opened Desert Vista,” said Mr. Loutzenheiser who was known as Mr. L to students and staff. “In January of 1989 Dr. Wright asked me if I would open the school. I felt honored by his request. It began a 14 year experience working with wonderful teachers, staff, cafeteria workers, custodians and administrators. That group made   my job easier by connecting with parents and students. The memories of academic achievements, individual student achievements, growth in children and parent participation were exceptional. We built a team that worked well together. The afterschool clubs connected students with their school. The Ridgewalkers were especially close to me. We developed character and watched student develop into confident leaders. I am so proud of all I had the opportunity to work with all of those years. Thanks staff, students and teachers for becoming such an important part of my life.” 

Above are many of the Desert Vista Elementary School students who painted donated flower pots and used donated soil for Mother’s Day and parent gifts in 2016. (Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newsmedia)

Thousands of students, as well hundreds of staff members have been a part of the legacy that has helped DVES remain strong over the past 30 years, according to the release.  

“We believe in our Mustang pride every single day and we hold a true belief in our community of Apache Junction through the support they have shown us over the past 30 years,” Ms. Smith said. “It is amazing to see generations still connected and being educated at Desert Vista Elementary and I know the next decade will be just as wonderful as the first three.” 

Desert Vista is a Be Kind school where each day students and staff practice the 10 tenants that make a difference in the lives of others. Each day DVES students proudly share how they actively demonstrate their kindness to others by being respectful, being compassionate, or simply by being a friend, the release states.

For more information about AJUSD schools, call 480-982-1110, or go to 

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