Viewpoint - April 27, 2011

Guest column: After 150 years, Valley school district will celebrate

by Nancy Lund

Who would guess that a town that is 45 years old would be home to a school district that began 150 years ago?

Although it is surprising, in April 1861 — the month the Civil War began and when the Pony Express was still in operation — the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors authorized the creation of the Searsville School District. The students at that little school moved to a new one on Portola Road in 1894 after the Searsville Dam flooded the area around the school. In 1909, enrollment was large enough that a second schoolhouse was built, the one that still stands, and the district's name was changed to Portola.

With the rapidly expanding population after World War II, the 1894 school was taken down, and the new Portola Valley School rose on its site during the first years of the 1950s. It wasn't until 1955 that the current name, Portola Valley School District, came into being.

Thus, 2011 is the time for the young town to celebrate the sesquicentennial of its school district. A committee is already making plans for the weekend of Oct. 1-2. It seems early, but for the news to spread to members of the district's family that have scattered far and wide, it takes time. To date, plans are under way for open houses at the schools in the late morning or early afternoon of Oct. 2, followed by a picnic on the Town Center's fields. Under discussion are possible activities for the evening of Oct. 1.

There are several ways for members of the school district family to become involved in the celebration. First, reserve the dates. Alert people you know outside the boundaries of the PV Forum and the Almanac to sign up for Yahoo group PVSD150 for news. The committee is looking for photos through the years, second- and third-generation families who've attended the schools, and also for former members of the Corte Madera band for a potential "jam session" at the picnic.

A souvenir book is being created, including a timeline and vignettes of important events in the district's history. The plan is to also include a list of those volunteers who have been recognized for exceptional service. A complete list from 1992 to 2011 exists. Many gaps exist in years before 1992. If you know of people who have been so recognized, please report their names.

The most special part of this commemorative book will be the memories of people who have passed through the doors. Students, parents, staff and school board members (past and present) are encouraged to contribute memories of their days in the schools, from a paragraph to a page in length. It is these memories that will make the book wonderful.

Send all information and any questions or comments to or call 851-1700x210.

Nancy Lund is Portola Valley town historian.


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