Cover Story - September 28, 2011

A look at the district's past

The 150-year-old Portola Valley School District got off to an unusual start. The first schoolhouse, built in the lumber boomtown of Searsville, was forced to move by the flooding resulting from the construction of the Searsville Dam on Stanford University property in 1891. Martha Hallidie, wife of cable car inventor Andrew Hallidie, then donated a portion of their estate, "Eagle Home Farm," for a new Portola Valley School at what is now 765 Portola Road and the Portola Valley Town Center.

April 1, 1861: The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors authorizes the creation of a Searsville School District in the little town of Searsville.

1891: The creation of Searsville Reservoir causes the residents to move away.

1894: Martha Hallidie offers a portion of her estate for the creation of a new school. The Searsville School is dismantled and moved. A new school is built at what is now 765 Portola Road.

1909: Enrollment increases enough to warrant a second schoolhouse. Cost: $3,602. The name of the district becomes The Portola School District.

1950: The 1894 school is dismantled and sold for $10 to make room for a new modern, four-room school called Portola Valley School. The population is growing very rapidly. Enrollment: 59.

1952: A two-room addition is added to Portola Valley School. Enrollment: 230.

1954: A four-room addition is added to Portola Valley School. Enrollment: 464.

1955: 23 students graduate from Portola Valley School.

Dec. 12, 1955: The school board changes the district's name to Portola Valley School District.

1956: The four-square-mile area around Skylonda is added to the district.

1958: Corte Madera School opens on the former Bovet Ranch for first and second grades.

1961: Ormondale School opens on a portion of Ormondale Ranch for one third-grade and three fourth-grade classes.

1963: A four-room addition to Ormondale opens.

1975: Portola Valley School is sold to the town of Portola Valley for $120,000. Six new classrooms are built at both Ormondale and Corte Madera schools.

1977: The last students graduate from Portola Valley School. Ormondale becomes a K-5 school; Corte Madera, 6-8.

1998: Ormondale becomes K-3; Corte Madera, 4-8.

2004: All new construction is completed at both schools.

2011: Portola Valley School District celebrates its 150th birthday with a party on Oct. 2 at Town Center.


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