La Porte ISD History
La Porte was founded in 1891 and incorporated in 1892. The La Porte area was widely advertised in northern publications as being a fig and citrus fruit growing area drawing settlers from as far away as Illinois, Ohio, Kansas and Nebraska. As there were no roads in the beginning, homesteaders arrived by boat. Later, the railroad would come within 10 miles of La Porte to Deer Park. By 1893 there were approximately 23 school-age children in La Porte, but no official school. The desire to establish an educational system led them to hire Mill Helen Haden as a private tutor. This was La Porte's first classroom-type endeavor located at 206 South Third Street. To pay Miss Haden's salary, parents were asked to contribute $50 per month on a voluntary basis. This resulted in a school that lasted only six months. By September of that year, the number of school-age children had doubled.
Mr. A. B. Prince agreed to loan the town his vacant store building, commonly referred to as "the white square building," on the corner of Main and Fourth streets to use as the first official school. This pilot school contained many modern conveniences, including its own water well with pail dippers, and an inside basin on which hung a long roller towel over a homemade rolling pin. Mr. John Lardner was hired to teach the older children, Miss Abbie Newcomb to teach the primary grades and Miss Dora Yorty was to teach the intermediate grades. As a result of another population growth, a pragmatic scheme of dividing the students into two one-half day shifts kept the overtaxed system operable.
By the end of the 1890's the railroad extended into La Porte, which lead to a population growth of about 500 and a need for expanded school space. A two-story four-room school was built on the corner of Second and "C" streets on lots donated by Mr. John Capian. In 1903, the first graduating class consisted of three students receiving their diplomas. In the fall of 1914, the vacant Christian church building on the corner of Third and "C" streets was leased to accommodate the additional children who were then eligible to enter school.
La Porte Independent School District was formed in 1916 and a new three-story red-brick building was constructed near Broadway and "C" streets which would house the bused-in additional students from Lomax and Morgan's Point. In 1917, the student body selected orange and white as the school colors, the bulldog as the school mascot and published a one-time only yearbook Etropal, which is La Porte spelled backwards.
During the years of the depression, 1918-1924 that followed in the wake of World War I many citizens were unable to pay their taxes, and as a result, the school term lasted only six months.
In 1921, Mr. C. E. Wade was appointed principal, and he organized the first football team, orchestra, choral club and "mothers club" during his first year. In 1935, the second yearbook, The LPHS Daze, had a one-time publication by Lynnwood Anderson, editor-in-chief. In 1939, La Porte High School began the official publication of an annual yearbook. It was named The Reflector as it remains to this date.
In 1940, La Porte Elementary was built to accommodate students in grades one through six. The existing building continued to house grades seven through twelve. In 1943, disaster struck the system in the form of "The 1943 Hurricane." The top two floors were severely damaged and were removed. The remaining first floor was repaired and 12 classrooms, cafeteria, music rooms, manual training room, athletic dressing rooms and showers, storage units and a tax office were added to make this the junior high and high school.
In 1945, a new gymnasium/auditorium was constructed on Broadway between the elementary school and the newly remodeled school. A new high school was also built that year which is now the old part of La Porte Junior High. In 1948, the elementary school had a new wing added and a new Intermediate school was built. For the first time the La Porte educational system had a complete school unit housing and segregating primary, intermediate, and secondary levels.
History records that La Porte was not unique in the country in that its schools were segregated until the 1960's, but its transition to an integrated system was quite remarkable. Paralleling the history of the all-white schools, La Porte black students were housed in temporary facilities until a school of their own was built and until they joined the all-white students in the district's schools. In 1909, a Baptist church was used during the week for black students and later a Methodist church was purchased for their use by the La Porte Independent School District. Miss Viola DeWalt was the first teacher of this school. In 1953, DeWalt Elementary was opened as a neighborhood school for black children and grades one through eight were taught in this building. Grades nine through twelve were sent by bus to Carver High School in Baytown, Texas. The La Porte school system was one of the first districts in the country to fully integrate its student body and facilities in 1963-1964. This set an important precedent of peaceful desegregation for the state as well as the country.
The school district purchased 44.8 acres in 1959 on "J" Street (now Fairmont Parkway) and built a new La Porte High School, housing grades nine through twelve. The old high school then became the La Porte Junior High as it stands today.
In 1963, the first fully air-conditioned school in the district, James H. Baker Elementary, was opened for students in the Fairmont Park area. This school later became Baker Junior High, but is now the sixth grade campus for the entire district.
In 1964, the high school added a planetarium, and "E" building wing, and in 1972 a new library wing was added. Since 1966, the district has changed boundaries, annexed several communities, and built and remodeled campuses all over the city. For students in the south Bayshore and Shoreacres areas, Bayshore Elementary was opened; students in the College park area were sent to College Park Elementary; students in Lomax (annexed by La Porte as West La Porte) were sent to the newly built Lomax Elementary. Jennie Reid Elementary and Leo Rizzuto Elementary Schools were built to accommodate the students in the Fairmont Park area. Lomax Junior High was built to accommodate the growth that La Porte Junior High could not support. Over the years the La Porte High School has expanded to include: The Sonja Angelo Theater, a basketball gymnasium, swimming pool complex, vocational building, student center and the Henry Einfeldt Band Hall. In 1996, a new field house and a science building were added. The La Porte Independent School District has come a long way from a one-room classroom to 12 separate campuses and a city population of over 27,000 and growing.