In October 1954 the school districts of Hickory and Scott Townships in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, began serious discussions of forming a new jointure. Scott was then a member of the East Lawrence Joint School District, which also included Plain Grove and Washington Townships. The proposed withdrawal from that district led to some bitter debate and harsh feelings. Before too long Slippery Rock Township, which had been pondering a jointure with Shenango Township, decided to join the new Hickory-Scott merger.
The new school district, to be known as the Laurel (Joint) School District, was soon formally approved and became effective in July 1955. Plain Grove and Washington Townships had been invited to join the new district, but both refused and aligned themselves with the newly established Wilmington Area School District.
The mid-1950’s was the start of much reorganization and modernization in the school districts of Lawrence County, with various mergers that included the establishment of other new school districts known as Wilmington Area, Mohawk Area, and Ellwood City Area. In addition numerous old one-room schools were being phased out and various modern education buildings, including four new high schools, were being planned for the county.
The Laurel School District, under the reign of Supervising Principal (Superintendent) Alfred F. Barnes, began classes in the fall of 1955 with the old consolidated school at Eastbrook serving as the initial home of the newly established Laurel High School. Green and silver were soon selected to be the official colors of the high school. Other schools serving the district included the larger schools of Harlansburg, Princeton, and Hickory Heights and the one-room buildings of Rural Hill, Aiken, Rose Point, and Shaw.
Discussions for the building of a new high school, well underway at this point, were given final state approval in December 1956. On June 4, 1957, construction of the modern Laurel High School, designed by architect Harding B. Thayer, began on a 100-acre site just west of Route 388 along the Harlansburg Road. The property – situated in both Hickory and Scott Townships – was once part of the 500-acre tract owned by General Baron Freidrich von Stueben (1720-1794), a Prussian-born military officer who played a vital role for this country during the American Revolutionary War. It was also the approximate site of the first New Castle Airport, which was relocated to Union Township in 1928.
In October 1958 the school district’s junior high level students began attending classes in a portion (ten rooms) of the new school, which was still undergoing construction. In early March 1959, after a final inspection was completed, the remaining twelve rooms were occupied by the high school level students. The $1.5 million Laurel High School was officially dedicated by a ceremony on the evening of Saturday, May 16, 1959, and Eugene V. Hill had the honor of being the first principal.
A major addition, costing $450,000, was made to the school beginning in May 1964. The year-long project featured an enlargement of the cafeteria and the addition of seven classrooms and a new library. Dale K. Cameron took over principal in 1966, the same year the Lawrence County Farm Show took up permanent residence just across the street at its new fairgrounds. In 1972, during a reorganization effort with the school district, Cameron assumed the post of Assistant Superintendent while former assistant principal Dominic J. Ionta took over as principal. A few years later, in late 1978, the new Laurel Elementary School was opened right behind the high school.
A handful of my relatives from the Bales family have graduated from Laurel High School over the years, including my cousin Milan Bales and the four children of my uncle Ray D. Bales Jr.
In June 1957 construction commenced on the new Laurel High School, designed by local architect Harding Thayer, on the Harlansburg Road. Junior high level students occupied a portion of the new school in October 1958, while senior high students moved in during early March 1959. The school was officially dedicated on May 16, 1959, with Eugene V. Hill serving as the first principal. (c2005) Full Size
The Laurel Junior-Senior High School. (c1994) Full Size
The Spartonian yearbook staff from the 1963-64 school year, overseen by business teacher Mrs. Leah McConahy. (1964) Full Size
The Spartan Marching Band from 1963-64. (1963) Full Size
A member of the Laurel Chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). (1963)
Another FFA member from Laurel High School. (1963)
A group of boys playing basketball inside the gym. (1964)
The relay squad from the 1963-64 school year at Laurel High School. (1963) Full Size
The Laurel High Chorus, under the guidance of Mr. Richard Morrison. (1965) Full Size
The Laurel High varsity football squad, led by head coach Samuel Nan, from the fall of 1964. This team compiled a record of 4-4 and finished out the season with wins against Northwestern High (39-32) and Union High (7-6). (1964) Full Size
The varsity baseball team from the 1964-65 school year. This team played hard but struggled to a record of 2-9. (1965) Full Size
Three students prepare to take a driving lesson under the watchful eye of instructor Robert C. Byler (on right). (1966) Full Size
The cafeteria staff from 1973-74. (1973) Full Size
The Laurel High School Color Guard from 1973-74 includes Kathy Kerr, Debbie Graham, Jody Brown, Cindy Porado, Patty Grove, and Cathy Jones. (1973) Full Size
The Laurel varsity football squad came into the late 1973 season as a favorite, and won its first game (shown above) against Wilmington High by a score of 12-0. The Spartans followed that game up by defeating Mohawk 20-0, Shenango 6-0, and Lakeview 26-6. Unfortunately they went 1-4 the rest of the way to finish a disappointing 5-4 overall. (1973) Full Size
Laurel High School’s baseball squad from 1973. (1973) Full Size
Students board their buses following the end of a school day. (1973)
That test taking looks intense! (1973)
The school library. (1974) Full Size