HISTORY OF EDUCATION IN PASCO COUNTY

The New Port Richey School

This article was last revised on Nov. 28, 2015.

In 1914 a public school opened with about 30 students, the classroom being located on the second floor of the McNatt Building, at the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Adams Street in what would become New Port Richey.

West Pasco’s Heritage has:

There were twenty-eight children of school age and no school. She [Ellen De Vries] called a meeting of the residents and appointed a committee of three to go to the County School Board with a petition asking for a school, and told the committee to “remain with said School Board until request was granted.” After two days, authority for the school was granted and in October 1914, the first school was established in New Port Richey. ... The first school in New Port Richey was simply a classroom on the second floor of the Idlewild Apartments in a building at the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Adams Street in 1914. The children sat on wooden benches or nail kegs, while kerosene lamps were used for lighting. The building was called a fire trap since it was an old wooden structure with no way out except down a flight of wooden stairs. One old timer who recalls this school said the children were told by their parents in case of a fire they should jump out a window as the stand would probably be soft enough to break their fall and they would surely be crushed to death trying to get down the narrow staircase. This was the meeting place for learning in New Port Richey until the building of a new school in 1915.

On Nov. 19, 1914, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported, “Cornell and Poole are painting the McNatt building which is being used for school purposes.” The teacher was Miss Corinne Tait of Dade City. In the middle of the 1914-1915 school year, Miss Minnie Jones became assistant to Miss Tait.

On March 12, 1915, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported, “A largely attended meeting was held Monday night to discuss plans for a new school house. A plan submitted by S. H. Cornell seemed to meet with general approval and it was voted that Mr. Cornell submit estimates of cost which will be forwarded to the school board who, it is claimed, are ready to erect a building whenever approved plans are received. $3,500 has been appropriated for a school, which sum ought to furnish a building that will meet the requirements of Port Richey for some years.” (This was to be the wooden building on Main Street in New Port Richey; the name “New Port Richey” was not yet official.)

New Port Richey School built in 1915 In Sept. 1915 a new wooden, two-story school house opened in New Port Richey at East Main Street and Madison with about 30 students. Miss Julia Ellarbee Harn was the teacher and Miss Eva McKeathen was her assistant. Miss Harn had been Principal of Bagdad Elementary School in Bagdad, Florida, in 1911. She was born in Georgia, and also taught in Punta Gorda.

A 1915-1916 directory shows Miss Julia Harn as the teacher at the New Port Richey School and Harold Stephenson as the teacher at the Cootie River School.

School opened again in New Port Richey on Sept. 25, 1916, with Miss Nannie Knight of Tampa as teacher and 30 students in grades 1-8, according to an unseen article in the Nov. 1916 New Port Richey Post.

In the fall of 1916, Miss Brummette became principal at the New Port Richey school. She resigned in December and was succeeded by Miss Johnnie Davis, who remained until the end of the school year, according to Doris Wright.

On Nov. 25, 1917, a newspaper reported, “The New Port Richey school has more than forty pupils and in consequence Frank Ingram has been employed to assist Mrs. Brummette. With incoming winter tourists and residents, the school will have sixty pupils at the height of the season.”

On April 25, 1918, the eighth grade promotion exercises were held in the school building. Teacher Miss John Davis was at the piano. The students honored were Miss Amorita Lenore DeVries, Olaf Frederick Ericson, Miss Mary Ingram Dixon, Ray Spencer Leach, Miss Emma Boyce Ingram, Donald Carr Booth, Miss Alberta Van Voorhies.

In the fall of 1918 the New Port Richey school began the school year with Miss Louisa Leach as principal and Miss Laura Van Poucke as assistant, and about 60 students.

On Feb. 27, 1919, the New Port Richey Press shows the teachers as Miss Louise Leach and Miss Laura Van Pouck.

In the fall of 1919 the New Port Richey school began the year with Mr. C. W. or C. H. Martin as Principal and Miss O’Berry as assistant, both of whom soon resigned. Then Mrs. George L. Wanner became principal with Mrs. Oren and Mrs. Lapham as assistants. These names are shown as Mrs. Oran or Mrs. Arran for intermediate grades and Miss Lapham for primary department in a newspaper article. In a few weeks, these three resigned their positions. For the next few weeks the school was in the care of Mr. William Lightfoot, after which the year was completed with Mrs. Rachel Kirkman as principal and Miss Bessie Goodman and Mrs. Alice Rosebrough as assistants. There were about 70 pupils.

On Oct. 16, 1919, the New Port Richey Press reported, “In addition to the usual primary and normal grades, the 9th and 10th grades of the junior high grade is now being taught at New Port Richey.”

On Feb. 22, 1920, a newspaper reported that W. Lightbody, a graduate of the Normal College of Canada, who holds certificates for all high grades, has been appointed principal of the New Port Richey school

An April 1920 school board meeting shows a bill paid to the Dade City Insurance Co. for insurance at the Cootie River School.

On Nov. 4, 1920, a newspaper article shows the teachers as Miss Ruth Davis (principal) and Mrs. Carl Cripe.

In April 1920 school board minutes show payments to these teachers at (New) Port Richey School no. 36: Mrs. Rachael Kirkman, Mr. William Lightlin(d/l)y, Bessie Goodwin, Inez Roseborough, and Mrs. Harvey O. Sheldon.

On Jan. 7, 1921, the Dade City Banner reported, based on school board minutes: "Application for an additional teacher at New Port Richey was considered and it was decided to visit the school Wednesday. This the board and superintendent did and found an attendance of 102 pupils and three teachers. They engaged Carl Cripe as principal of the school, with Miss Davis who had been in charge as first assistant.”

In 1921 the Board of Public Instruction had insufficient funds to complete the 1920-21 school year at the New Port Richey school, and the citizens of New Port Richey were called upon in a public meeting at Snell Hall to subscribe money needed for the purpose. A total of $400 was raised and the schools were kept open until the last Friday in May.

During part of January 1922 the New Port Richey school closed because of an epidemic of diphtheria.

On Oct. 16, 1922, a newspaper article had: “D. C. Cripe, Principal. Miss Maree Pinholster, Intermediate. Mrs. Cynthia Albritton, Second Primary. Mrs. Lottie Cripe, First Primary. School opened September 4th with an enrollment of ninety-five pupils and three teachers. The attendance increased until it became necessary to have another teacher and Miss Maree Pinholster was secured for the position.” [The name should be spelled Marie Pinholster.]

On July 6, 1923, the New Port Richey Press reported that Gregg O’Berry, son of superintendent E. B. O’Berry, was appointed principal of the New Port Richey grammar school. It reported, “Mr. Carl Cripe, principal for the last year, will probably go to Sanford.”

At the start of the 1924-25 school year, Miss Florence Sessoms was principal and Mrs. T. R. Clark was her assistant. However, on July 11, 1924, the Dade City Banner reportred that Mrs. Mabel D. Tansil was appointed principal, and Miss Letha Crews and Miss Bessie Bayless were appointed as teachers.

On Dec. 5, 1924, the New Port Richey Press referred to the school as Main Street School.

In Sept. 1926 a new brick elementary school opened on the same site on Main Street in New Port Richey. It was named Pierce Grammar School.

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