Heritage, Volume 11, Number 4, Fall 1993 Page: 12
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In 1939, at a cost of $12,000, the WPA provided Clairette's 1912 school house with a companion: a rock
gymnasium and recreation center as well as a fine Lone Star-shaped fountain and in the bargain, provided badly
needed employment for 86 townspeople. The old school house still serves as a community center while the much
newer gym is now a stately ruin.
A Ithough more than 50 years
have passed since the Works Progress Administration
(WPA) built schools and
school-related projects, many communities
have not deserted their WPA buildings
and still take pride in their beauty, durability,
and usefulness. These buildings were
intended to utilize the skills of unemployed
architects and artisans alike. They are now
celebrated not only for their high craftsmanship,
but also their attractive appearances
often gained through the use of locally
available natural materials.
These structures often replaced the one
and two room schoolhouses that were the
heart of the rural educational system. In
1935, 70 percent of Texas children attended
one, two, or three room schools.1 But by the
early post World War II years, these small
edifices were disappearing as functioning
units. The 1949 Gilmer-Aiken Education
Reform Bills are credited with the consolidation
and end of the Texas common
schools, but it was during the later years of
the Depression, with the help of WPA
programs, that the reorganization of small
school districts into larger central schools
gained its momentum and funding.
Rural and small town Texas schools
suffered with the same Depression problems
as other schools; however, some remote
communities experienced an additional
burden-an increase in population due to
the backward migration of recently urbanized
unemployed workers who returned to
their roots. These communities, consequently,
had an increase in small school
enrollment just as their tiny local tax bases
were decreasing. In an attempt to solve this
problem, some educators advocated the replacement
of small schools with larger-model
schools that would accommodate all the
students and would offer an enriched curriculum
including vocational courses.
Moreover, the community would also benefit
from such a structure by being able to use
the library, gymnasium, and auditorium for
various non-school functions. Additionally,
the proponents of consolidation argued that
because of a broader tax base that could
funnel all revenue to only one educational
complex, the new improved central school
would actually lower taxes.2
A few counties heeded the advice of the
experts and consolidated without federal
government assistance. No doubt a local
impetus was given to the movement in the
12 HERITAGE * FALL 1993
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 11, Number 4, Fall 1993, periodical, Autumn 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45417/m1/12/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.