The History of Trinidad School District #1

Trinidad is a community of approximately 9,000 people located on the mountain branch of the famous Santa Fe Trail. Officially incorporated in 1876—months before Colorado became a state – Trinidad has a rich history molded by Spaniards, French Explorers, scouts, trappers and traders who left evidence of their passing in colorful geographic names. Jewish, Italian, Polish, Yugoslav, Lebanese, German, Irish, Spanish, and Mexican families were drawn to the area by the extensive coal mining and large cattle companies. Traditionally, Trinidad had been sustained by coal mining, railroading, and agriculture. However, in recent years, due to the rich deposits of methane gas in the area, mineral extraction has become the dominant industry.   As boom that accompanied this industry plateaued and then slowed, Trinidad has been left with certain economic challenges.

What is today known as Trinidad School District #1 was organized in 1866, ten years prior to Colorado becoming a state, this organization represents the oldest public school district in the State of Colorado. At one time there were 131 other school districts in Las Animas County, all organized beginning in 1872 – 1932. The original districts in Las Animas County included #5—North Garcia Plaza; #7—Jansen; #14—Riley; #18—Cokedale and Bon Carbo; #30 – Central Starkville; #32—Morley; #38—Burro Canyon, Bon Carbo; #42—Sopris; #53—North Starkville; #56—South Starkville; and #63—St. Thomas and Las Animas County High School, which was organized in 1921. Over the years, many of these have become part of District #1.

In 1882, a formal high school was organized in Trinidad, offering a three year course of studies. The classes were held upstairs in the original Rice School Building, which was completed in 1881 at a cost of $10,000. It stood at the corner of Maple and Second Streets and originally served both elementary and high school students from 1911-1947. The first high school class to graduate from Rice was the Class of 1885.  The graduating exercises were held at the Jaffe Opera House on Main Street, later housing Hausman Drug Store and the Isis Theatre. The following year, six students received their diplomas. The years 1888, 1889 and 1891 did not have a graduating class. The original Rice School was razed in July, 1949. Ground was broken for a new building and the first classes were held in September, 1950.  Cost of the building, including the architect’s fee, was $182,000. This building was later turned into a junior high school, then an elementary school for grades K-5 and eventually housed the district’s administration offices from 1995-2013, when they were moved to Eckhart Elementary and then to Park Street School.

The class of 1894 was the first to institute the custom of a senior banquet, which was held at the Columbian Hotel, located at the corner of Main and Commercial Streets, with 102 present, including parents, alumni and graduates. The first Junior-Senior prom was held on June 1, 1909, in the ballroom of the West Theater, now the Fox Theater.

In 1904 Trinidad School District Number One was the first school district in the state of Colorado to be accredited by the North Central Association of Secondary Schools.

In 1910 a bond issue was approved and the grounds for a new high school building were purchased for $11,000. On November 15, 1910, the cornerstone for the new building was laid. The total cost of the building, including furniture and fixtures, was approximately $105,000. On September 11, 1912, classes commenced with an enrollment of 252 students. Construction of a new junior high school and two elementary schools followed shortly thereafter.

In 1922 an auditorium with a seating capacity of 800 and a gymnasium with a swimming pool were built. Cost of the auditorium was $50,000 and the gymnasium was built at a cost of $60,000. A cafeteria on the lower floor of the building was later established, and the rooms for the commercial department were also added, at a total cost of $20,000. The band room was added in 1947. This large and diverse structure served the community as Trinidad High School for over 60 years, when – in the early 1970’s – a new facility was completed on the land behind it. Built in part by Federal Model Cities monies, this large and modern one-level structure still serves the community as Trinidad High, with its older neighbor remodeled and now functioning as Trinidad Middle School. The gymnasium at the new high school was named after Dr. James Donnelly, a prominent doctor in Trinidad for many years, who also served as a State Senator, Trinidad city Council member and a local board of education member.

The athletic field which serves Trinidad High was completed in 1927; the decorative gate that stands at the main entrance to Miner Stadium is a memorial to the class of 1927. The cost of the field was approximately $5,000.

The large “T” emblem of Trinidad High School, adjacent to the athletic field, was erected and assembled out of stones in 1933. The work was divided among four classes; the freshman class built the base, sophomores the stem and juniors and seniors built the arms of the letter.

The Student Council, the law-making body of the school, was organized in 1934 and still functions today as an important feature that directly affects the students.

In the early 1940’s the high school had an enrollment of nearly 1,000 students, including over 200 students who came from the surrounding mining camps. The largest class in the history of the school graduated in 1940, which consisted of 190 members. In the early 1970’s, enrollment was approximately 700 students at Trinidad High School. In 1972-73 the total district enrollment was 2300 students , and in 1985-86 enrollment dropped to 1650 students. Today, total enrollment is approximately 1,000 students in grades K-12, reflecting both a decline in population and the local economy.

The first yearbook under the name “Pinon” was founded by the Senior Class of 1911. It was published under that name for three years, then ceased publication. In 1920 it appeared under the name of “Blue and White” and in 1922 the “Miner.” In 1933 the “Yearbook” appeared and was known by that name until 1939. In 1940 the name “Pinon” was revived and it continues under that name at the present time.

Literary Societies were established in 1905, and throughout the years the school has won many honors in debate and oratory competition with other schools in the state.

At the turn of the century the first school paper was published by the Literary Club under the name “The Athenian Voice.” “The Freshman Squealer” followed but did not succeed due to lack of funds. The “Blue and White” appeared in 1908 and for three years flourished, then failed due to financial troubles. In 1917 it re-appeared in booklet form, published once a month until the early 1920’s, when it assumed the appearance of a newspaper and continued publication for several years. The “Coal Bin,” its successor, started in 1954 and continued into the 1960’s.

The Administrative Offices of Trinidad School District Number One were located in the lower offices of Park Street School during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. In 1965 the offices were moved to 240 N. Convent Street, where school buses were housed for many years.

In October, 1990, the Board approved an application of $9,000,000 with the Colorado Association of School Boards Lease-Purchase Pool Program to complete major renovations and additions to the Trinidad Junior High/Park Street School Complex. An additional $1,500,000 was transferred from the General Fund to complete the renovations and acquisition of land. Open House for the new facility at the Junior High/Park Complex was held on January 8, 1993.

A bond issue was approved by the voters in November, 2000, by a vote of 1950-1775, in the amount of $7,175,000 to acquire land, construct, furnish and equip a new elementary school which would replace East Street and Park Street Schools. The bond issue was also utilized to remodel, update, furnish and equip Eckhart Elementary School and replace temporary classrooms with permanent classrooms.

A contest was held for the naming of the new school; eighty names were submitted by the students and ultimately Fisher’s Peak was selected. The new Fisher’s Peak Elementary School opened in the fall of 2002; East Street and Park Street Schools closed in August of 2004.

The athletic field at Miner Stadium was named “Dutch Nogel Field at Miner Stadium” in honor of Dutch Nogel, a former high school football coach.  Also, a few years later, the Board of Education named the high school library, the “Krangy J. Shaddy Library,” after a long-time principal of the school district.

Trinidad School District Number One presently has one elementary school housing grades K-1, one elementary school housing grades 2-5, one middle school housing grades 6-8, and one high school housing grades 9 -12, with a total enrollment of 1026 students.

The school district is governed by a five member Board of Education that employs a superintendent who delegates the daily administrative operations of the school district. The Trinidad School District is a member of the South Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services.