Looking back: 100 years in Alief
The area within Alief ISD boundaries today is a bustling urban community, while only a few decades ago, it was a sparsely populated flatland.
In looking back, we find that some things, however, are still the same as they were many years ago for those of us who live and send our children to school in Alief today. Very old records tell us that even in its early days, Alief was a community that cared for its children. Parents wanted excellence in education in a safe environment, and that is still the mission of the district. Alief ISD is fortunate that parents, other community residents and organizations, and business partners show their support by generously giving their time, materials, funds, and much more to benefit students.
In contrast with the present, Alief (once known as Dairy) was a rural community of about 30 families in the early 1900’s. The area was described as a flood-prone prairie, where farmers grew rice, cotton, and corn and raised cattle. Going to Houston meant a 30-mile round trip by wagon on an unsurfaced pathway. When the area was flooded, the only way to get to town was by a small train that ran through Alief.
A three-story brick school was built in 1911, replacing the small schoolhouse previously used. Alief’s Dairy School, District 46, officially became an independent school district in 1917, and like the village, it was renamed for the community’s first postmistress, Alief Ozelda Magee.
Alief’s second general store opened in 1915; the stores were popular gathering places for residents. By 1920 a few Alief citizens had automobiles. Electric service, however, wasn’t available until 1935, and residents had to wait several more years for telephone lines to be installed.
The three-story school building was condemned in 1939, so children had to attend classes in a nearby frame structure called the auditorium. It was also used for church services, weddings, and other community events. In 1940 a school annex was added.
Construction of the Alief campuses that exist today began with financing from bond issues in the early 1960’s. Alief Elementary School, later renamed for teacher Cynthia Youens, was the first to be built in 1964.
Even as recently as 1970, the Alief community was more pastureland than developed acreage. A few subdivisions of single-family dwellings dotted the map. Several of today’s major thoroughfares, including the route of the Sam Houston Tollway, were gravel roads, The district only had three elementary schools and a combination junior-senior high school.
As with many areas close to a metropolis, however, sooner or later urbanization occurs. A huge tract of vacant land was sold in 1977, and the Brown & Root complex was built on part of it. Apartment buildings mushroomed over another large portion. There was also the construction of Royal Oaks, an upscale neighbor with homes in excess of $1 million.
Alief’s population almost quadrupled between 1970 and 1985, and business, big and small, multiplied in the community. Annexation of sizable chunks by the city of Houston began in 1977, and Metro bus routes were extended to the suburb. One of the most visible signs of this population boom has been the heavy congestion during peak traffic times. To assist east bound commuters in the morning and westbound commuters in the evening, the construction of the West park Tollway, built along the path of the old railroad tracks, made driving a breeze for those traveling between Highway 99, the Sam Houston Tollway, and the Loop 610.
The community and the district have steadily continued to grow. The twenty-fourth elementary campus opened in August of 2007; the sixth intermediate, in 2003; and the fourth high school, in 2001, and the Alief Early College High School, a partnership program between Alief ISD and Houston Community College, began in the fall of 2009. There are also two ninth-grade centers, six middle schools, a night high school and an alternative learning center currently in the business of educating the children of Alief.