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Orange County's effort to provide public schools began with the first Florida secular school law, passed in 1869. The Union Free Church, built in 1869, served as Orlando's first public school.
In 1876, Orange County had 46 schools with 749 pupils, but some of the schools lasted for only a term or two, depending upon the changing population and demand for schools.
The School Exhibit Book listed teachers, schools, and expenses for the early 1890s.
In 1884, the Free School could no longer accommodate the 296 pupils in Orlando and another 58 just outside the city. The Orlando Public School opened in 1884 at the corner of Orange Avenue and Jackson Street.
In 1871, General Sanford sponsored Swedes to this country to help work in his groves. They would work for him for one year and he would give them give acres of land. They formed their own community called Upsala, which was located on the west side of Sanford. They established a church, which was also used during the week for a school house. One of the first school buses in Seminole County was the Swedish school bus pulled by a horse by the name of Roy.
In 1883, two lots were purchased by the county from the Florida Land & Colonization Co. for the purpose of erecting a two room school in which all grades would be taught. One of the first teachers was Ms. Angie Tucker of Sanford.
The school was officially called Eastside Primary; although it was not red, it became known as "The Little Red School House." Teachers were paid one dollar a month for each pupil per three month term. The term could be any anytime during the year at the teacher's convenience. A total of thirty-three students attended the first term and were called to class by a brass bell with an improvised clapper.
Oakland and Winter Garden opened a school in 1877 in a house. The school moved to another house in 1890, before finally completing the 2 story school building pictured here in 1906.
By 1885, the Orange County School Board owned 105 buildings. By 1890, school terms were usually six months; shortage of funds sometimes caused it to be shortened. The Great freeze of 1894-95 affected schools—due to population decline, and financial shortages.
The Orlando Colored School opened in 1886 at the corner of Garland and Church Streets and became Johnson Academy in 1895. Jones became principal in 1912. In 1921, the Jones family donated land for a new school on Jefferson Street at Parramore Avenue, and the school name was changed to Jones High School. This building became the Callahan Elementary School when the high school moved again to a new building in 1952.
After a fire in 1905 damaged the old public school at the corner of Jackson and Church Streets, a new brick building replaced it on the same site in 1906. The first class graduated in 1892.
The Florida Uniform Examination Questions for 2nd and 3rd Grade Certificates in 1894 included the state superintendent’s motto; "as is the teacher, so is the school."
Women outnumber the men in this Orlando High School photograph, taken about 1900. The first Orlando High School graduating class in 1892 included nine women and two men.
A new high school opened near Lake Eola in December 1922. On January 22, 1923, the school was dedicated to the soldiers who died in World War One. In 1925, the high school classes moved from Memorial High School to the new Orlando High School on Robinson Street.
In the fall of 1911, Sanford High School opened its doors. The building cost $20,000.00
to build. According to the Sanford Herald, the course of study has been broadened and strengthened. The demerit system of discipline has been adopted in the high school department. The enrollment of all pupils, both high school and grammar school, was 550.
When Seminole County was formed in 1913, several schools were lost to Seminole—Buda, Geneva, Longwood, Oviedo, Sanford High and Sanford Elementary. School board districts also had to be redrawn.