Tomball grows from one-room schoolhouse
When the first school was started in Tomball in 1908, 12 to 15 students were enrolled. Classes were held in a one-room wooden frame building—the Woodmen of the World building—and students' desks were hewn wooden blocks and benches that circled the room around a wood-burning stove.
The first school building was built in Tomball in 1910 on Cherry Street on donated land. It was a two-story red brick schoolhouse, with two classrooms downstairs and an auditorium upstairs. The school, which cost $5,766.90 to build, was part of the Harris County School System and enrolled 62 students by 1916.
"Typically the country schools were locally organized and run by the parents," said Jean Alexander, director of the Tomball Museum. "Usually the fathers of the first students became the board of education and made the rules."
As Tomball grew, so did the schools. By 1928, there were four schools in Tomball, and by 1931, there were five teachers employed by the district.
"Tomball has grown so much," said Shirley Klein Harrington, a 77-year-old retired teacher who taught in Tomball ISD for seven years and is still a resident in the city. "Things didn't really start changing until oil was discovered and the Humble Company came in and wanted to upgrade the school system."
In 1933, the Humble Oil Company's exploration drill hit a 100-foot gusher of oil in southwest Tomball. After that, people called Tomball "a floating island of oil."
The town was soon flooded with dozens of oil companies, which drew thousands of workers and boosted the economy by historical proportions.
Tomball continued to grow and experienced its second major boom after World War II when families desiring a more comfortable life came out to the country, where suburbs started springing up.
In Tomball, people could escape high taxes, traffic and crime, but at the same time enjoy the closeness of jobs, culture and entertainment in Houston.
By 1935, the original two-story schoolhouse was torn down. In its place, the district built a new buff brick building for students in first through seventh grades.
Tomball became its own district in 1937 after a petition was presented to Harris County School Board.
The district continued to grow and by the next year, it added an additional school. A red brick high school and gymnasium was built on the 700 block of Main Street. That school was destroyed in a fire in 1961.
Tomball ISD eventually incorporated Decker Prairie, Bauer, Kohrville and the Rosehill community in the district.
The district enrolled 1,246 students by 1970. Tomball High School opened in 1974. Today, the 9,000-student district has 12 schools.
"A lot of the big growth has been recent," Alexander said. "Oil started it, and it grew through that and the train coming through here. Over the last 12 years, it has grown by having more businesses established here and a number of companies that have offices here."
The district built a new administration building in 2012. Bricks from the original schoolhouse are part of the new construction, and the original clock from the Cherry Street School is restored and in the lobby of the new building.