In 1912, the Colorado Agricultural School (now CSU) established a department of Rural and Industrial Education. Their mission was to study rural education in the state, a state still sparsely populated with many rural school districts, and to recommend changes for rural schools on a state-wide basis. It didn’t take long for them to identify the major problems; small, weak, and inefficient district school organizations, untrained and inexperienced teachers, and inadequate school buildings and equipment. The solution was also plainly obvious to them – consolidation – and one of their earliest experiments was Larimer County and what would become the Cache La Poudre Consolidated School, in Laporte, Colorado.
On July 4, 1913, the cornerstone was laid for the new school. According to the Fort Collins Weekly Courier, over 300 people witnessed the “imposing ceremony.” Many luminaries spoke at the ceremony that the newspaper called “one of the broadest steps in education ever made in Northern Colorado.
One of the speakers was Charles A. Lory, President of CAC. He reminded the audience of college’s long-time effort in rural education, thanked a number of people who were involved in the school’s planning, and closed by telling the audience that “the college’s telephone system [was] connected at all times with the Laporte district and that all they had to do was to call the college and anything that institution could do to help would be done promptly and cheerfully.”
In October 1913, the Cache La Poudre Consolidated School, consolidating six small rural schools, opened for business with 181 students, from first grade through high school.
In 1918, CAC released a report entitled, “Rural School Improvement in Colorado.” Around a dozen consolidated schools were reported on in detail, including the Cache La Poudre Consolidated School. According to the CAC report, the new school consolidated five rural school districts and parts of two adjoining districts. Six old buildings were abandoned and were replaced by “a beautiful structure of brick and stone, costing $30,000.” Here is how the school is described in the report:
“The basement story, all above ground, is made of Colorado red sandstone, quarried from the red cliffs within the district, while the two other stories of red pressed brick. There are about 15 rooms in the building. It is modern as to heating, lighting, and ventilation and has indoor toilets, and its drinking fountains are supplied with pure and cold mountain water. . . . Nine rooms are used for classroom work. The large school and community auditorium will seat 350 and the manual training teacher and his family live in five rooms on the ground floor.”
Below is the full-page image of the school, used in the report.
Transportation was obviously as important to the school consolidation effort as the new schools. The new Laporte school used six wagons to move students around the consolidated district. The wagons were purchased from the Delphi Wagon Company in Indiana. One local writer said the wagons “were not unlike the wagons used . . . for conveyance of prisoners from one jail to another.” The wagons were fitted with side curtains to protect the students from weather. When the snow was high, the wheels were replaced with bobsleds to make sure students could attend school.
The report also featured three other views of the school, which, along with their captions, are reproduced below:
As the county grew, so did the school system. Changes occurred to the consolidated school as reported in the history section of the Cache La Poudre Elementary School website. In 1949, the present day Cache La Poudre Middle School was built and called the Cache La Poudre High School. The consolidated school was then used for kindergarten through 9th grade. In 1964, Poudre High School was built and the old high school became the junior high school. Finally, in 1974, the original brick building was knocked down and the new Cache La Poudre Elementary School was built in its place.