Shortly after the City of Lawrence was incorporated in 1847, one of the first measures undertaken was the naming of a school committee that was entrusted with establishing a school system. Early in 1848, the Lawrence School Committee, after consulting with Horace Mann and other distinguished educators of that day, adopted a system of free public education for the primary grades through high school. With the adoption of this plan more than 160 years ago, the Lawrence Public School System was officially founded in 1848.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, the District built many quality school buildings with the latest amenities of the time to properly educate the growing immigrant population of this city. Today several of these fine school buildings have been updated and are still in use to serve the needs of an ever-growing student population.
The first grammar school in the city opened in 1848, in the original Henry K. Oliver School building. For a time, the building also served the seventeen students of Lawrence High School. Organized on January 31, 1849, the high school did not have its own building until a new Lawrence High School opened at the corner of Lawrence and Haverhill Streets in 1901. This high school building would serve the city's high school population for the next 106 years.
In 1892, a new era in school construction began in Lawrence with the erection of the John R. Rollins School on Prospect Hill. This school was soon followed by the building of the John K. Tarbox School and the Emily G. Wetherbee School. Over the next twenty years, the Alexander B. Bruce, Gilbert E. Hood, John J. Breen and Francis M. Leahy Schools, along with the addition of the James D. Horne Annex to Lawrence High School, were built to serve the children of the Lawrence Public Schools. All of these school houses, some of which are still in use today, were built with the most modern amenities of their time. Each has been renovated from time to time to keep pace with the education, technology and safety standards of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Today, 160 years after the Lawrence Public School System was established, the District has an enrollment of more than 13,000 students, many of whom are immigrants or the children of immigrants. The Lawrence Public School District comprises four early childhood centers, ten elementary schools, six middle schools and eight high schools. The school district has a comprehensive standards-based curriculum and hosts educational initiatives to help ensure success for all its students and create a college-going and readiness culture throughout the entire school system.
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, three new educational complexes have been built. These new facilities are: the Gerald A. Guilmette Educational Complex, the Edward F. Parthum Educational Complex and the Emily G. Wetherbee School. These three school complexes serve more than 3,000 students in total and have the latest educational and technological resources available for their students.
In addition, a $110 million, 42-acre high school campus — one of the most progressive and technologically advanced schools in the country — opened in the fall of 2007. The Lawrence High School Campus is the premier twenty-first century prototype for the conversion of large urban high schools into small, stand-alone thematic schools. The thematic high schools that comprise the campus are: The Business, Management and Finance High School, the Health and Human Services High School, the Humanities and Leadership Development High School, the International High School, the Mathematics, Science and Technology High School and the Performing and Fine Arts High School. The LHS Campus athletic facilities, which are among the largest and most modern in the state, have a 3,400-seat field house — the largest in New England — which is adjacent to the newly renovated Lawrence Veterans' Memorial Stadium. The Lawrence High School also holds a media center and a Performing and Fine Art Center that seats more than 1,200 people. The Performing and Fine Arts Center has been featured in national publications for its advanced technology and architectural designs.
Today the Lawrence Public Schools' highly qualified, professional educators draw from numerous resources to plan and implement lessons tied to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. Teachers use a range of formative and summative assessments that assist in providing vital data to drive instruction. This data, along with teaching best-practices, assists teachers in making sound educational decisions for each student, facilitates differentiated instruction to meet each student's learning needs, and prepares students to successfully meet and overcome the challenges that lie ahead. In the Lawrence Public Schools, education is truly the key to the future for the students of the twenty-first century.